Nation of Id

As is often the case after a major world/political event, this morning my Facebook newsfeed was full of one-liner reactions to complex issues. Some rely on quotes to convey their sentiments, others craft their own statements based on initial reactions or, less frequently, measured analysis (much appreciated by this reader, no matter where on the political spectrum they fall— and yes, it is possible to be thoughtful in less than 420 characters).

Indeed, on the morning following Osama Bin Laden’s death, my newsfeed was dominated by cathartic, Id-driven responses— which is to be expected, given that Osama had become the personification of evil in our national consciousness. Naturally, the instinctual reaction of a nation that has been trained by the media and politicians to believe that the War on Terror is a black and white, us vs. them (and the metaphorical net cast to encompass the “them” is often quite large) issue would be one of intense celebration.

However, amidst the celebratory exclamations and bold statements about what justice and patriotism entail, I also see reactions of fear and sadness from my friends. These are the responses that resonate most with me. I don’t claim to be a scholar of US-Islamic Extremist relations. However, one thing I do know is that the murder of Osama Bin Laden does not constitute the end of the War on Terror. Rather, it is an act that I imagine will haunt us for decades.

What if we were to temper our Id-driven “USA, #1!” responses with a healthy dose of super-ego? If we were to pick up a book, take a class, or talk with someone who could give us a different perspective on the historical events that we have come to view solely through our national lens? Perhaps we would discover that justice will never be reached until we fully comprehend, as Obama put it in the wake of 9/11, “the sources of such madness.” Perhaps we would realize that peace will not be achieved until we recognize that (to borrow Obama’s post 9/11 words again) “failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity….”

Quotes taken from David Remnick’s “Obama and Osama,” The New Yorker, May 2, 2011.