I woke up this morning to death. I didn’t cheer it like those kids in DC. My cat had killed a mouse. I screamed, and then I laid a towel over the corpse. My great-grandfather used to say, “It’s not the dead people you need to worry about– it’s the living.” He was a mortician.
Osama bin Laden was not executed. He was killed while resisting arrest. I would have rather seen him in jail. I wish Adolf Hitler were still in jail. I wish he had softened up, learned the roots of his self-hatred, and started knitting yarmulkas in between painting his still lifes.
I’ve always worried more about the living than the dead. I did take my great-grandfather’s advice to heart. And the stories my senior English teacher told about her husband, a Vietnam vet. She said he came back broken-hearted and mentally muddled, and I thought, maybe that’s worse than being killed. The real reason I hate violence is because you can’t armor the mind, or the heart. I protested the war in Iraq because of that husband. I never met him.
I do have problems with the dead. Since there’s a dead mouse next to my toilet, I’m going to have to start peeing in the side yard. I don’t see any other option. Well. I could move.
In February, I met a woman, Mary Johnson, who used to work with Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, the opposite of bin Laden and Hitler, right? Mother Teresa was not perfect. I heard Ms Johnson read from her book, describing how she told her mentor, her hero, that she was requesting a release from her vows. It wasn’t an easy conversation. Mother Teresa, while inspirational in many ways, was not God. She did not understand everything, and she did not have all the answers. (You can preorder her book here and please do– she’s great: http://www.amazon.com/Unquenchable-Thirst-Following-Service-Authentic/dp/0385527470 )
It doesn’t help anyone to make some figures angels and some demons. Mother Teresa herself said, “We cannot conquer evil outside if we have not conquered it inside. We cannot give what we don’t have.” And we can only give what we do have: revenge and gloating, or reverence and awe, regardless of who has died.