There’s only been one movie in my life where after the credits rolled, the entire packed audience just sat there in silence. The emotion and impact of the movie so gripping that it took a few minutes to pull the audience out of the story.
That movie was Dead Man Walking, starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. The movie is centred around Penn’s character on death row for rape and murder. It touches on universal themes that this week we are all considering, such as revenge and redemption, crime and punishment, fear and salvation.
As one reviewer wrote at the time, “Dead Man Walking could easily be manipulative or exploitative, but it’s neither. Instead, this is hard-hitting drama that neither accepts nor offers quarter. As one recognizes that there are no clear-cut answers.”
The death this week of Osama Bin Laden, the world’s ‘most wanted mass murderer’ has divided millions around the world on exactly this subject.
Do we celebrate our revenge, and our so called ‘justice’, or is an eye for eye setting us up for further conflict, more deaths, and are we essentially playing god?
When I started watching Dead Man Walking I was fairly sure that I wanted Sean Penn’s character dead.
I even thought many years ago that if anyone raped or murder someone I loved, I would certainly take revenge into my hands, and would willingly suffer the consequences of jail as a result.
By the end of the movie, I wasn’t so sure I had this right. I wasn’t sure that in any situation that another person’s death, no matter what the circumstances of their acts, was going to bring peace to myself, or what any god or higher source would support.
And that’s how I feel this week.
Watching American’s celebrating and rejoicing outside the White House after the announcement, whilst I can empathize that the victims and families of September 11 must crave healing of the highest order, is this act of more violence firstly going to stop further deaths, and is it showing ‘our team’ as being the better people?
If we are not permitted to kill another human in our own country, those that have raped and slaughtered our own loved ones, then why is this the answer on a global level?
How can world leaders tell us that the murder of Osama Bin Laden is going to bring peace and justice when we are now being advised that we are no longer safe to travel to countries like Pakistan?
How will this effect from this point on such feel-good events like a Royal Wedding or the 2012 London Olympic Games?
What should be universal moments of joy will once again be overshadowed by the chance that ‘evil’ will strike us down.
Understanding that there are bad eggs in all walks of life, races and creeds, spare a thought for the Muslim community living in here and abroad when once again, a small faction of murderers claiming to share their religion, are going to be generalized and further alienated by this ‘us versus them’ slanted coverage?
If you think that we’re not being brainwashed with generalizations that make us all ignorant, you only have to watch Fox News, in particularly Bill O-Reilly who revels in comments such as “There is a Muslim problem, because you know what happened when it was announced Bin Laden was dead? They were silent. If there wasn’t a Muslim problem, they would have called us to congratulate us! They didn’t.”
They, supposedly being all Muslims.
Could their silence be considered having dignity? Are we very sure we’re not part of an ego war on terror, rather than one aimed at what’s right?
I for one cannot rejoice when it’s clear, no one has won. And the propaganda that goes with this war on terror is not left to the Islamic fanatics; we too have our own messages of hate.
An eye for eye. And so is goes on.