Monday, May 2, 2011

Vengeance and Remembrance

When it comes to this blog, I like to keep my chocolate away from my peanut butter. In other words, I make it a point to steer clear of discussion of real world matters. There are enough pundits with opinions out there without me adding to the blather. And I really do want to keep this blog as pure and focused on gaming as possible.

But today, the day after the announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of US Special Forces, I feel obliged to at least say a little something about it. I hope you bear with me.

I would suggest that everyone, on a personal level, take some time to sit and just contemplate. Digest things. Think about things as they pertain to you and your life since September 11, 2001. Tune out the news shows and all the many newsfeeds that bombard us through all manner of outlets these days. Don’t let others start filling your head with all their opinions, not just yet. Save that for tomorrow or the next day.

For now, just explore your own feelings, as you probably did on that bright September day almost a decade ago, when the world changed forever. Then, you might have been filled with dread and a certain horrified awe as you watched the world change forever. Now, almost a decade later, explore what you feel now. Maybe you will find parallel experiences, but this time the genesis of those emotions is profound relief or even happiness, instead of terror and uncertainty. And perhaps you can let yourself think that current events may somehow help alleviate the negative effects of what happened ten years ago. Perhaps the world has again changed forever, but for the better this time.

The man who set the ominous tone to the beginning of the 21st century is dead. That fact might not erase his legacy completely, but it at least may be some small comfort. Perhaps this can be the true first step to reclaiming this still-new century from the shadow he helped cast over it. I suppose I don’t have any illusions that we can ever return to the blissfully unaware days of the late 20th century. And deep down perhaps I wouldn’t want that. But at the same time, I think of my children, and I wonder at what world they will grow up in.

I suppose that depends on my wife and I, and how we teach them to approach the world no matter what state it may be in. But they will never know a world without the aftereffects of 9/11. And that makes me sad. But I also remember that I can teach them that they have a choice every day to be happy. But they must also be aware of the world around them, because there are those that wish them ill. But has it ever been any other way, really? Perhaps the America I knew in my youth simply did a better job of making the realities of the wider world seem no threat to us.

Today is a good day to remember that we must always remember. On September 11, 2001, I was only about a month into a new job. I was still relatively fresh out of college and my career was ahead of me. On that morning, I remember a small news tidbit on Yahoo that was just a sentence about a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. It was such a small sentence, and I remember thinking that something like a small Cessna had crashed into it. But soon enough the whole office was flooding into the lunch room and gaping at the TV, watching smoke billowing out of the first tower. We were all in that room when the second plane hit, and I’ll never forget the wordless wailing that went up, the shouts declaring the impossibility of what was happening. I’ll never forget the horribly contorted faces of my coworkers as they stared about at each other or turned to run to their desks to call loved ones.

Today is also a day that sometimes we can savor revenge. Sometimes we can take some solace in ancient eye-for-an-eye, life-for-a-life justice. I’m not a big believer in vengeance when I’m in my calmer, more rational moments. I believe it only perpetuates hatred and violence. But when angry I, like many others no doubt, welcome swift retribution for those who clearly think they are superior to other human beings.

Osama bin Laden was that kind of person. He believed he was better than everyone. He believed some twisted version of god had blessed him. He wasn’t a Muslim. He was a manipulator and a self-serving hypocrite. He sent others to their deaths while he hid himself away. He was a coward, a schemer, conniver, and manipulator. He was no different than Hitler, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and so many others throughout history, demagogues that for some inexplicable reason had a deadly charisma that entranced far too many individuals. These are people who claim to be guided by higher powers or purposes, but who are truly only motivated by one thing: self-deification. For these unfortunately powerful individuals, perhaps the only true way to silence them is death. Perhaps this is the only real situation in this world when death is absolutely called for without question.

I for one am glad he is dead. This is a fitting bookend to the last decade. I am going to hold onto a kernel of hope that this death will be a signal that we can throw off the pall of doubt and fear that this self-righteous, self-serving, cowardly murderer cast over our the current era. Perhaps those he once duped will wake up to the fact that their self-made god was indeed just a liar who sought to profit from the deaths of others.

So for now, I will smile when I watch video of joyous crowds around the world erupting into spontaneous communal celebration. Today there is no wailing in anguish, and the screams I hear are those of relief and exultation. I’ll let the events wash over me and let myself feel the moment. And I will remember how differently I felt all those years ago when horror prevailed, and thank God that this time the epicenter of current events is happiness, at least for today.


  1. I'm happy he is dead. It is not very satisfying, which I find surprising.

    I'm wary about the effect this will have re: sleeper cells and others sympathetic the cause.

  2. @ Drance: I am NOT happy he is dead, but I am satisfied with the actions taken. I do not believe in revenge or "blood justice" (as I did in my teens)...I have grown up and learned that such actions only lead to more violence.

    But we (the USA) did NOT simply "blow him up." We made an effort to apprehend him as (I think) is right and proper. I think the force that was used (i.e. "deadly") was due to the training of the forces used in his apprehension (i.e. Navy SEALs...not known for carrying tasers)...and I feel that we used the proper forces for the operation.

    Regarding the future: there is NO reason to bring up your children in fear nor "jaded" at the state of the world. Perhaps children of the 50s were brought up fearing Japs and Germans...perhaps children of the 80s were brought up fearing the Russians. These fears...if they were instilled...amounted to nothing. Why raise our children to fear?

    A "terrorist" is an artificial a D&D character class. "Oh, terrorists...they have D8 hit dice and are proficient in AK-47s and bomb-making and they are restricted to Chaotic alignment." There is no such thing as a terrorist. There are people who do bad...because they're angry, or they're dumb, or they're misguided. And we treat them like the criminals they are (i.e. we try to prevent them from doing harm and if we can't we try to keep them from doing harm in the future).

    Do you raise your children to fear a possible mugging/murder/rape? Or do you teach your child to be good and smart and try to make the world a better place and make wise decisions? Fearing what MIGHT happen is not helpful...we MIGHT get into a car accident because of a drunk driver and get killed. We MIGHT be an astronaut on a space shuttle that explodes.

    We need to worry about the things we can control...and that is being good human beings: empathetic, compassionate, and kind.
    : )

  3. @JB: Thanks for your words, I appreciate your position. I suppose where we differ is that I feel there are certain individuals, rare though they may be, that are not necessarily evil (again, good and evil are relative in most cases) but rather amoral. I think we too often refer to those that are amoral as evil. Or perhaps an aspect of those who are truly evil is amorality. But I'm not going to try to ponder that question here.

    My point is, there are these certain individuals that arise from each generation, and for some reason come into great power. And they use that power to harm the rights and lives of others, and I believe that there is nothing more abhorrent in this universe than impeding the free will/life of another. Whether it's through imprisonment or murder, that takes away a soul's free will to exist and flourish. These people become the ultimate manipulators and puppet masters, seeking to make themselve gods on earth.

    It is these people that I feel are the exception to the cosmic rule you discuss in your post. I feel that these individuals can be cut out of our great collective spirit without retribution. These figures of amorality arise among us because of the gift of free will itself. It is the price we must pay for our ability to act as we will, to determine our own fates. The powers that be in the universe knew this when we were forged. The benefits of free will most often outweigh the risks, it seems.

    And as for my children, yes, I focus on teaching them to be caring and giving people, but also caution them to be aware of the world around them. I definitely avoid trying to teach through instilling fear, and I think I do a good job of it.

    It seems like we mostly agree, which is good in my book! ;-) And I didn't expect anything less. What a boring life it would be if it were otherwise, eh?

    Enough of this real life stuff, let's get back to talking about RPGs up in here!