The cover of TIME magazine’s May 20 issue featured a picture of bin Laden with a bloody red X across his face. The message is clear–a man responsible for shedding the blood of thousands has now been eliminated. Sent to rot in hell as less-nuanced headlines pronounced. Mr. Stengel, the managing editor, then recounted the history of the red X. This is the fourth time it has been used since the tradition began with Adolf Hitler, then continued with Hussein and al-Zarqawi. Apparently, bad men have been in higher demand during my lifetime because the only issue I haven’t seen is Hitler’s.
The red X tradition seems to have become something of a morbid to-do list. Take out the trash. Check. Throw away the moldy bread. Check. Scrape the soap scum from the bathtub. Done. I wonder whose blood-smeared face will appear next. Ahmadinejad? Ghadaffi? Rob Bell? What we do know is that we are slowly but surely cleaning up our global suburbia so that we can get our scripted lives back.
I couldn’t help but notice that TIME’s symbol for the elimination of a wicked person is the same symbol that represents Christianity. A bloody cross. I wonder if Jesus would have been on a TIME “housecleaning” cover had the magazine been around back then. Probably so. In fact, with his dark skin and beard he likely would have resembled bin Laden. Jesus died a murderer’s death under a hypocritical religious system much like ours and under a legal system from which many of our American ideals flow. Several thousand years later we can look back and shake our heads at the injustice of an innocent man dying a criminal’s death, but I’m sure we would have done the deed given a chance. Indirectly, we all did contribute. And several thousand years later we are still killing off people, under the delusion that we have it within us to decide whether or not somebody is worthy of life. I’m not excusing Osama’s treachery, but the fact is, Jesus loved him and wanted redeem him as much as wants to redeem any of us. If we would really serve justice, all of us would be buried in the sea with bin Laden.
The whole bin Laden story has got me to thinking about this whole justice thing. Never have the politicians been more united. On this one point Obama, Glenn Beck, and sane people agree–justice has been served. The man who has claimed responsibility for killing thousands and disrupted our peaceful Clinton-era lives has finally been killed. Justice has been served.
At least this is the line from the intellectual politicians and news commentators. The pictures and videos of revelers in the streets seem to tell a different and much truer story. Apparently, it’s not justice that we’ve wanted all these years but revenge. We were out for blood, and by George (and Obama) we got it. Good old America does it again the American way! Where are the pictures? Show us the bloodied corpse.
And then, as we gaze at the blood-spattered room and read descriptions of bin Laden’s bullet-ridden body, we feel good about ourselves because we at least are not as evil as he was. Killing an obviously wicked man in the name of justice removes the uncomfortable focus from the terrorist that hides in the deepest caverns of our civilized and pathetic hearts.
Nietzche was on to something when he stated that our conscience “truckles to the tyrant within.”
May God help us.