My Reaction is Better Than Yours: Osama and the Patriotism of Righteousness

Via Kristoffer Nelson
on May 3, 2011
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I found out about Osama’s death the same way I found out about the attacks on the World Trade Center: I was in bed.

In 2001, I was waking up to the radio.

This Sunday, I was giving my Twitter and Facebook feed one last look prior to turning to my right and closing my eyes.

In 2001 I felt many things, but mainly shock, sadness and confusion. Sunday, I felt many things, but overall, I must say, I felt happy.

There, I said it, I am happy the f#cker is dead.

Mirroring 2001, and this time with my iPhone and MacBook in tow, I jumped out of bed and ran to my television: watching and waiting and wondering.  I loaded my feeds, flipped through news channels, and opened a variety of sites.

My initial happiness turned to a moment of pain and sadness, and a few salty tears slid down my cheeks.  The sadness morphed into a moment of liberal partisanship, and I blasted off a few cynical, partisan tweets.

Now 20 minutes into the announcement, for the first time ever, my Twitter and Facebook feed was filled with comments about only one thing: the death of Osama Bin Laden.

As I watched the comments scroll and the commentators on television present, I fell into a somber reflection.  I wondered: what does this mean for Obama’s reelection? Why do I feel happy? Why do I feel sad? Should I feel something different? Why do I want to throw a water balloon at GW? Why am I so cynical? Why am I constantly thinking about what I think and feel?  Why am I constantly thinking about myself?  I should think about other people and be more evolved.  What does this mean for Americans? Muslims? Humanity? What does this mean for peace? What does this mean for our future?  Would it be wrong to have a drink and celebrate?

I’m still happy the f#cker is dead.

Drinking a bourbon and toasting President Obama, the pallet of my thoughts and feelings were reflected on my media feeds, and mainly fell into four camps:

1) Those celebrating
2) Those calling for reflection
3) Those blasting off partisan rhetoric, and
4) Those expressing cynicism,
a) It doesn’t matter
b) it isn’t true

Opinion and patriotism breeds self-righteousness.  Each camp was questioning the others’ perspectives and reactions claiming their own as right.

Interestingly, those calling for reflection seemed to be the most critical.

I understood and felt each camp’s perspective.  I felt and thought them all.  I understood them all.  And my overriding reaction remained, I am happy the f#cker is dead.

I don’t like death.  I firmly believe in justice.  Death is never right; however, what is just is not always right.  Death is wrong, and Osama’s death is just.

Commentaries of the Bhagavad Gita, in my view, often fail to emphasize a critical point: the entirety of the Gita, the canon of Krishna’s teaching and discourse on yoga and enlightenment is toward one point and one point only: Arjuna getting up and doing his dharma.  Arjuna’s dharma, in the Gita’s narrative, is killing the Kuru clan, members of this own family, because it is just.  The Kurus were criminals and nihilists.  They hated life, and their crimes and nihilism made their death just – Arjuna’s yoga was ultimately one of proliferating a just death.

A quote attributed Martin Luther King, Jr. went viral yesterday:

“I will 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.”

As it turns out, Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t say the first sentence. And I do like the sentiment.  And I don’t think death is always hate or darkness.  Sometimes death is just, and justice is light.  Justice is dharma.

I understand the fountain of thoughts and reactions on Sunday night. I shared them.  And when I say I am happy that the f#cker is dead, I am not celebrating death, I am celebrating justice.

I am happy the f#cker is dead.


About Kristoffer Nelson

Kris Nelson works to development business, culture, and consciousness. He is a consultant, entrepreneur, and a corporate executive. He is also certified Anusara Teacher and well established meditation teacher. After teaching in Los Angeles for many years, Kris spent several years touring Asian, Europe and the United States teaching Anusara Yoga, meditation, and perspectives on awakening in the modern world. When Kris approached the age of 30 he decided that it was time to get an real job and now assists organizations and businesses in both evolutionary and financial growth. Kris currently resides in Raleigh, NC working his first corporate job in a very long time. You can find Kris on twitter at @toffernelson or on his website


25 Responses to “My Reaction is Better Than Yours: Osama and the Patriotism of Righteousness”

  1. Jimbo says:

    F#ck yeah, motherf#cker. Ain't that the f#cking truth.

  2. Ben_Ralston says:

    Some thoughts Kris:
    There is no (human) justice.
    Death is not wrong; it's just a part of life.

  3. Ctindale says:

    So executing people without trial is ok. Thats what you stand for ? Even your forefathers had Nuremberg but America today has descended to the point where the rule of law and trials are pushed aside for drunkness and joy in the streets at summary executions? The thousands of dead , the false invasion of iraq, the massive loss of life and all you have to say is your glad he was executed . Did you join the drunken cheering in the streets. Disgusting and this how much you've awakened? Death is not wrong execution without trial is wrong. Killing unarmed terrorists who should be bought to trial is wrong. The world has lost the opportunity to have Bin Laden put on trial, now he is a martyr and the hate goes on.

  4. pranalisa says:

    from what I understand, OBL was shot as he was resisting arrest..this is not the same as an execution. I am saddened by the entire situation, yet his death left me feeling grateful that such a horrible life was over and perhaps it could bring some closure to the many whose lives were forever changed after the 911 tragedy. The illegal war that followed and the horrors that will no doubt continue are separate issues to OBL's death a few days ago. I have to admit, his death the other day provided a sharp contrast to the feeling I had the morning of Sept 11 2001 when I heard of the WTC attack. It was a sense of relief…and while I was not part of the drunken crowd cheering in the streets, it is not my place to judge the reactions of others. I can;t even say I had any control over my own feelings other than I felt them and was aware. I am glad, however, that OBL is gone…and that a long drawn out incarceration and trial and eminent execution, which would no doubt have elevated his status as a martyr even higher, will never occur. Radical Islam will still hate the US and terrorism will still go on..just not with OBL.

  5. Renee says:

    Odd, the most self-righteousness I saw/heard was coming from people who noted that if one wasn't celebrating, we must be un-patriotic, Osama sympathizers, holier-than-thou, etc. We were attacked on news programs – if one could actually call them that – from both sides of the aisle, as well as in articles such as this. Based on the tone of this piece, it seems there is a misinterpretation of the message from the reflective "camp." Most certainly, there was relief felt that this chase had finally come to an end. But, many of us moved beyond the instant gratification of the moment and felt there was more to digest. Instead of celebrating in a manner that seemed to mirror the way our "enemies" behave when Americans are killed, we chose a path that didn't seem so hate-filled…ours was an attempt to break the glorification of violence and the cycle of hate.

  6. meremade says:

    I don't agree with your arguments, but do recognize, that at least you are being honest with what you feel!

  7. Kris Nelson says:

    Hell yeah, Jimbo.

  8. Kris Nelson says:

    Hi Ben –

    You are entirely welcome to those perspectives. I understand.

    For me, to say there is no human justice, is to say there is no humanity. And those these things may be movements of the mind, embedded in our culture, they are functions and expressions of consciousness. To deny human justice, in a sense, is to deny reality and dismiss a fundamental aspect of consciousness as a simple illusion.

    Death is indeed a part of life. And I think there is just death and unjust death. Right death and wrong death. There our nuances that rest in the truth that death is a part of life. Truth is simple in the comparatively very challenging context of nuance.

  9. Kris Nelson says:

    Thank you, Pranalisa. That feels sweet.


  10. Kris Nelson says:

    Thank you, Renee. I appreciate your thoughts and you're certainly welcome to your interpretations.

    Let me ask, do you think that those celebrating were celebrating death and hatred?

    And, it sounds like we're all a bit self-righteous.

  11. Kristoffer Nelson says:

    Thanks, Meremade. And, I'm not sure I am making arguments. I am sharing why I felt and thought all the things I felt and thought.

    What did you feel? What did you think?

  12. Alice2112 says:

    Re: Kristoffer's points – I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this article by Tim Wise, "Killing One Monster, Unleashing Another: Reflections on Revenge and Revelry"

    “In the Shambhala warrior tradition, we say you should only have to kill an enemy once every thousand years.” –Chogyam Trungpa (I think America is way over quota on this…)

  13. Kris Nelson says:

    Thanks, Susan. Interesting!:

    As a human being, Bin Laden may have deserved compassion and even forgiveness, the Dalai Lama said in answer to a question about the assassination of the Al Qaeda leader. But, he said, "Forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened. … If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures."

  14. Ramesh says:

    🙂 It has always surprised me how quick the dual mind gets anchored in any concept of justice. Let's not even go there, I can trivially demolish any concept of justice just by pointing to an infinite number of world events that God is supposed to have overseen … Right there, you will quickly see yourself=body mind reacting … see how easily the mind dances around, avoids, gets excited, write articles that are supposed to move … titillate etc…. watch your own mind as I am doing right now. Right now, it feels like that the exchange is a game with no serious purpose. Anyway, let the play continue … and let the darn mind enjoy the crap. I hear some people earn a living doing this sort of thing 🙂

  15. Kris Nelson says:

    Is it really that surprising?

  16. Liza says:

    I must admit it does sadden and disturb me to read articles like this. I do, with a heavy heart, totally understand and empathize with the metaphorical death of bin Laden, but his death is only a symbol, it accomplishes nothing and only serves to escalate hate. I didn’t appreciate the Muslim world celebrating 9/11 and I don’t appreciate America doing it as well it is, frankly, humiliating to me. Don’t be confused; I am not criticizing the fact that people may be “happy the f#ucker is dead”, what deeply saddens me is the extreme lack of integrity this culture has. I do not believe, that millions of displaced people, hundreds or thousands of deaths, rapes and traumas with 10 years of war is any kind of justice for 3000 American deaths. An eye for an eye truly leaves everyone blind. It is so telling that we celebrate the irrelevant death (as it solves nothing and is only a symbol) of a man who committed horrible acts. So what we have then done is play God. Thats what America is. We go out into the world and play God because our representatives are psychopathic and sick. Who is in a position to say who lives and dies? Is anyone considering what that really means?

    You want justice? You want to be great and have integrity? You want to take back some of your dignity America? This is how to do it: Instead of assassinating an un-armed man who, whether we agree or not, was an extremist spiritual leader to his extremely confused followers, Instead of hunting down people like dogs and executing them, you arrest bin Laden, bring him to be tried in American courts and charge him for murdering 3000 people. It would have been the single greatest example of democracy and dignity the world had ever seen America do. Once again, it could have been greatness and was just another sobering example of how expendable we treat lives, including our OWN.

    I understand completely the celebratory attitude that this metaphorical death bring to the broken hearts of people. I am not condoning or condemning the lost life of one man who was a terrorist. I am saying, that because we say death is just, they say death is just. They view us as terrorists. We come into their countries, build permanent bases (bin Laden was begging the royal families to help protect his country from permanent bases that would bring in pornography, alcohol and prostitution) to create massive instability so that we can rape their lands of resources and horde them for ourselves meanwhile destroying their lives, culture, infrastructure and hearts.

    Strictly speaking of volume, Bush is WAY more toxic then bin Laden. More soldiers have died in the arms of lies then 9/11. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi woman, children and innocent are dead, raped and emotionally and spiritually traumatized for the rest of their natural lives. America is spreading more death then any terrorist organization could ever dream. So if death is just, then I call for the death of many thousands of American people, including some of our leaders. WE MUST UNDERSTAND that death isn’t just because no one is in a position to say when and who should die. The moment we have that, is the moment we have men flying planes into buildings, suicide bombers, wars, innocent dying and massive unconscious pain. You see, no one can ultimately win with the personal philosophy that death is just. Certainly not the righteous celebration of a death that solves nothing, only “looks good” and “feels good”. It’s a reaction. Not a way to live and navigate the world.

    I’m stopping the cycle and I am starting with myself. I don’t care where that leaves me in this society or what people may “feel” about it. I am going to be the real and lived change I want to see in the world, and that is no more playing God, no more expendable lives, no more culture that believes lives are worthless and even if THAT particular life might be worthless, who is in a position to extinguish that life? Thats what democracy is for but then again, thats assuming we have a functioning democracy which clearly we don’t.

    The cycle has to end somewhere and with some enemy. Why not the greatest enemy of all?

  17. Ben_Ralston says:

    Wonderful comment Liza – highly intelligent, compassionate and articulate. I have a feeling that if Waylon (editor) read this, he'd invite you to write an article for EJ?
    In any case, thank you, and you might enjoy the article I wrote today:

  18. Jay Buchanan says:

    Right on brotha! I am loving this article!!! Brilliant brilliant brilliant!! Thank you.

  19. yogijulian says:

    exactly kris..

    ben, you seem to imply that justice belongs only to something beyond humanity.

    this along with the thought that death is just part of life (although this one is of course true) seem like standard throwaway relativist quips masquerading as a profound paradigm shift.

    justice is a human concept that attempts to make sense of what we can do to maintain fairness and deal with our world in an ethical way.

    death can be wrongful in an ethical sense – but death itself just is, right? i think kris is also saying that sometimes death (or killing) can be just.

  20. Kris Nelson says:

    Word: "this along with the thought that death is just part of life (although this one is of course true) seem like standard throwaway relativist quips masquerading as a profound paradigm shift."

  21. Kris Nelson says:

    Thank you, Jay. I liked yours too!

    Best wishes,


  22. Ctindale says:

    To have joy over what is essentially a cold blooded assassination gives little thought to the systemic problems this kind of unlawful execution creates. Geoffrey Robertson provides a good summary here

    Its not whether Osama was a an evil person, he obviously was, what needs to be examined very thoughtfully is how we best nullify the impact these people have on our society and other cultures. Drunken orgies of joy in NYC streets looks no better to the Islamic world than some of the crazy scenes of blood lust we see form their streets, it creates further hate , it creates further death down the track, it continues the cycle. Whether you feel good or bad is not the issue, its the greater issue of world peace and conflict thats important. The world needs to better understand how western foreign policy feeds this cycle. I would suggest that when thought drives feelings of joy or similar over these kinds of events we need to sit back and access our broader consciousness, our universal mind and heart, we need to reflect on the greater good. Who knows what created Bin Laden, was it the US foreign policy in Afghan in the 70s and 80s? are there similar policies in place today that create the hot house that creates another character like him? What might have he told us if he had lived?

    Will Bin Laden create a martyrdom that turns Pakistan toward further extremism? We need to take the guidance of Buddha, Krishna, Christ or whoever you follow seriously, we need to fully reflect or the causation they all point too. True consciousness comes when one can be, see , sense and embrace the interconnectedness of all things. Osama the metaphor and the man is a Jungian shadow of who we are , we are not separate, he is a reflection of our actions, a by product of our arrogance or ignorance. When he changes who we are and what we stand for he wins .

    I would have loved to see him put on trial for the greater good of all humanity.

  23. Leah says:

    Nelson strikes again!!!!

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