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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

It Ain't Over, Yet"*

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
May 9, 2011
as "Bin Ladin's death brought Americans together again"

Osama bin Ladin is dead.

Even a week later, there is still a sense of unreality to those words.  The terrorist responsible for the 9/11 attacks and countless other acts of violence, whom the United States has been in single-minded pursuit for almost 10 years, has been killed.  Perhaps he’s discovered that death for him wasn’t paradise and 70 virgins, but immersion in a lake of fire where he will spend eternity being burned but never consumed.

Strong words, I know.  But when I think back on all the dead and injured in his wake, I have a hard time conjuring up any sympathy.  

On a side note, there’s something viscerally satisfying that bin Ladin shares his date of death, May 1st, with Adolf Hitler.

I expected this.  I knew that somehow, someday he would be found.  Nobody with that kind of notoriety can escape forever.  What did take me by surprise was the level of jubilation expressed by the American people.  Here we were, seemingly mired in the deepest chasm of political divide since the Civil War, and then after one dramatic late-night announcement from the White House, we’re pouring into the streets, cheering, shouting, hugging and kissing, chanting “USA! USA! USA!”  It was V-E Day, V-J Day and a World’s Championship celebration rolled into one.  I almost expected to see a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square.

But, in the memories of past triumphs, we haven’t laid aside the truth that danger still exists.  Bin Ladin is gone, yes; and for the moment, al-Qa’ida may be crippled.  But there are still some 46 other terrorist groups whose primary purpose is to do us great harm.

There have been a lot of dictators, but only one Hitler.  There have been a lot of crime bosses, but only one Capone.  Bin Ladin was a consummate planner with the global reach to make things happen.  With him out of the picture, a period of time will pass before someone else with his twisted genius emerges.  In the meantime, al-Qa’ida will undoubtedly try to pull off something spectacular just to prove that they are still a viable threat.  Other militant groups, perhaps suffering from envy and inferiority, may try to step up to fill the vacuum created by bin Ladin’s departure.  

To quote Princess Leia, “It’s not over yet.”

And yet, even in the passionate throes of our celebrations, we Americans haven’t laid aside our convictions.  Many prefaced their celebratory remarks with the cautionary “I don’t like to celebrate the death of another human.”  

Americans love to celebrate, and this was manifestly an occasion to do so.  But what caught me unprepared was the realization that for one magical moment in time, Americans had bridged the chasm; as we did after Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we were once again standing shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm.  

Perhaps it was the realization that when our enemies attack us, they don’t attack Republicans or Democrats, they don’t attack conservatives or liberals.

They attack Americans.

For them, there is no difference; we’re all the same.

I’d like to think that in this moment of rare unity that we can embrace the idea that we are united by far more important things than the tenor of those arguments that have divided us. 

We have remembered that we are all, first, last, and forever, Americans.

We are in serious, perhaps dire economic circumstances, and there has to be a debate about how to extricate ourselves from this dilemma.  I understand this.  But out of this unifying moment, we have to find a way to conduct this debate as a rational exchange of ideas, rather than an exchange of insults.  

We have a choice to make.  We can change the nature of our discourse, and therefore the path of our nation.  We can build from this moment, or continue to destroy ourselves.

Last Sunday, my good friend, mentor, and brother columnist Tom Lavis wrote a moving piece about being a grandparent.  It was a soulful reminder of the things that are most important in life.  

Let us embrace each other. Share love and friendship; sow grace instead of anger.  Hold our families close, and make the effort to tell them how much we love them.

And proclaim to the rest of the world, “I’m in charge of my mind.”
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