“Peace and Justice Are Two Sides of the Same Coin”
Published: Friday, May 6, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 5, 2011 14:05
When I saw the text from my father that Osama bin Laden had finally been assassinated, I was hit with a rush of emotions as was everyone on our campus and across the nation. One of the first things that hit me when I read the headlines was the haunting images and videos of those innocent people leaping from the burning towers, filled with desperation that none of us will ever understand on this side of eternity. Those images—and the emotions I feel when they play in my head—are forever seared into my memory and the memories of those who remember that day. The jubilation that began in the wake of our President's speech gave birth to the rightful sense of justice this nation felt as rule of law prevailed. The rally that followed in the 9/11 Memorial Plaza was a fitting tribute to the memory of those who died. The wave of patriotic songs, the waving of the flags, and the renditions of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful" made me realize that history had been made and that being an American truly meant something as I stood in solidarity and unity with other members of my campus.
However, the disunity that followed soon after and the interaction with some of the members of the Peace Around the World group protesting the rally were questionable at best and left an absolutely bitter taste in my mouth. As Voltaire said, "I may not agree with anything you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it." I certainly don't agree with what they had to say at all about a man who orchestrated the deaths of more than 3,000 people who burned alive in those 110 story high furnaces. I absolutely feel justice was served, but the beauty of our system is that we should have the freedom to speak our mind without fear of retribution for doing so. PAW was almost denied that right on Sunday, not in our disapproval or counter protest of their presence at the rally, but in the throwing of beer cans and of comments that made certain members of our community—who decided that cursing them out with words I can't or won't repeat here—would be the right thing to do as our nation celebrated not the death of a man, but of the ideology he promoted. The goal of this ideology was to divide OUR nation; along lines of creed, religion, race, and all unifying systems of belief we hold dear. And despite the fact that he was sinking to the bottom of the Arabian Gulf while we cheered long into the night, part of me feels like he almost had the last laugh as we divided against each other in ways he spent two decades trying to do. Why? Because we engaged in the behavior we did with people who ARE our brothers and sisters and fellow Americans that had an opinion other than our own.
I commend them risking their well being to stand up for what they believe in and to do so regardless of personal consequence. They were not well liked and, based on the actions of certain individuals as the rally came to a close (i.e. cursing them out with social and sexual epithets, telling them that they should leave the country, and one individual shouldering an American flag and staff to simulate firing an RPG at the protesters), I believe they took a large degree of risk for their own safety once alcohol was introduced in the rallying party.
But, however much I disagree with everything they said on Sunday, I too must answer to my conscience and speak my mind regardless of personal consequences. As the saying goes, there is a special place in hell for those who choose neutrality in times of great moral crisis. Many of you may not—and a large enough number of you will not—agree with me. You may even hold it against me and question my patriotism because I see this in a different light, but whatever you decide to do, I implore you to look inside yourself and realize what this nation is about. President Eisenhower said it best, "peace and justice are two sides of the same coin." Neither side was wrong and neither side was right, but no one should be intimidated into not speaking their mind. That principle alone is what makes America the greatest country this world will ever know. However, you can't sacrifice the values you were founded upon because it might be inconvenient at the time or unpalatable. Doing so gives Osama bin Laden exactly what he intended to do on that September morning. I will leave you with a quote to think about, as I feel our campus has some serious reflecting to do: "This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world ‘No, you move.'"