Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays are the three days each week that I consciously prioritize my family, my close friends, and my individual well-being over my work as a self-organizing groups researcher. I minimize my connection with the broader world on these three days each week—don’t use the internet (unless in service of my family, such as finding the perfect recipe for chocolate cake) and don’t read or view formal news (again unless in service of my family, such as watching the weather forecast to determine if we should get our hopes up to go hiking over the weekend).
So it was just this morning that I read several days’ worth of my friends’ responses to the death of Osama Bin Laden. And it was also just this morning that I first saw images on news networks of a few impromptu parties in the streets of some cities.
I think each of us contains a little voice that’s inclined to harshly judge whole categories of “others” based on a distant, incomplete view and on nothing more than a distorted rumor or on out-of-context images that show up on network news. Fortunately, each one of us is also part of self-organizing groups that teach us to listen and learn, to treat others with respect and compassion, to value life, and to reserve judgment until we get a broader perspective. Without using words, one question my own groups ask me every day is this: are you going to listen to that little voice or are you going to listen to us—your collective self?
This post is for that little voice: the one within me today that was tempted to harshly judge the U.S.—as a whole—based on news images of a few people celebrating the death of another human being in the street. This is a summary of my experience reading my 150-ish Facebook friends’ status reports from the past two days. It paints a broader picture of us than the images of distant partiers in the street: a thoughtful, reflective, at times sad, often beautiful, sometimes humorous, and complex picture.
The most often quoted person in my friends’ status reports Sunday and Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Specifically:
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives,
but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
I also noticed that this quote was used by people of various political parties, not just my own, and various religions/no religions.
One person said:
“In a rare move for me,
I won’t be on Facebook the remainder of this day, at least.
I am an American, I support the men and women of the military.
I grieve with all of those who lost loved ones.
I believe this is a time for solemn reflection,
remembrance and reverence….
not jubilation and celebration.
I realize many of you disagree.
I love you all and I hope you love me back.”
My family member in the military said this:
“I am so thankful to have so much love
and support from such a great family.
Though the world may now be a safer place,
I pray for the day when we as a society
no longer have to celebrate
the killing of another human being.”
There were also several variations on this thought:
“Thank you to the men and women
of the intelligence services,
and Obama and Bush administrations
focus, patience, and resolve
that it took to get this done.”
One friend said this:
“[I] find the death of Osama Bin Laden bittersweet;
violence and hatred only perpetuate violence and hatred.
In the words of Einstein,
a problem cannot be solved
using the same level of consciousness that created it.”
And many humorous variations on this thought:
“Rush Limbaugh may need to be drug tested….
he just thanked and praised President Obama…..
I’m just sayin!”
Many shared links to more information—primarily the articles, photos, and reports that surprised them or made them think more deeply:
- Behind the scenes white house photos
- Story about the guy who didn’t realize he was tweeting about the attack
- Story about a counter terrorism center
- One of many stories posted by my friends living in other countries
- Story about how news spreads these days
- Brief story about the president’s personal involvement
- Story that puts forth a country-level question
I don’t agree with everything that was said by my Facebook friends—or in the links they posted to—but that’s not the point. Looking at all the ideas, thoughts, and responses across this group, how could I help but learn? This complexity, this empathy, this compassion, this curiosity, this interest in learning with and teaching nearby others, this sense of humor, and this ability to have and hold and seek out multiple perspectives—this is us too. My self-organizing groups help remind me of this on the days, like today, when as an individual I momentarily forget all this and decide to get on the little-voice-judgment bandwagon. Thank you Facebook friends.