I expected my muted, somewhat sheepish reaction last night to be a place-holder for a nasty, anti-jingoistic rant, but now that the steam has cooled, that rant no longer seems necessary, appropriate, or heartfelt.
I would, though, like to clarify that I meant no disrespect by my un-celebratory mood; I genuinely don’t understand the cause for celebration. I would attribute this partly to an anti-celebratory bias; saying that I don’t like to celebrate my birthday wasn’t just meant to be cute. In my mind, all celebration is tempered by duty and doubt and tinged with pessimism—after all, the next inflection point is invariably a trough—and at that point, there’s not much room left for catharsis.
To celebrate “righting” a tremendous amount of destruction without any hope of undoing a single iota of that destruction is—in my book—no celebration at all. The act of retaliation was itself another act of destruction—small, perhaps, by comparison to the act being retaliated and arguably instrumental toward prevention of further destruction (not my point to debate)—but it was nonetheless destructive. Because the initial act of destruction is not only part cause but the effective reason for the smaller destructive act, I consider the two inseparable; celebrating the latter necessarily celebrates the former to some degree, or outright ignores it.
You may disagree with that logic, and I suppose you could argue the same if, say, tomorrow we found a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. And while I don’t deny that this would be fantastic news, I’m not sure how heartily I could celebrate that either. The undoable destruction would leave me at least a little pensive, if overwhelmingly hopeful.
What happened last night, though, was an appalling end to an appalling series of events instigated and escalated by appallingly destructive human choices. To celebrate it like the birth of a first child is not just reckless but, I think, perverse. I apologize if this sounds like obnoxious finger-wagging, but honestly, that’s what it’s meant to be.
It’s quite possible—some would say likely—that civilized human society and the very continuation of our species is more imperiled than most of us come close to acknowledging. I hope it wouldn’t take our collective demise to regret past celebrations of human destruction, but if seeing three countries in less than two years nearly obliterated by natural disaster hasn’t reformed us, I don’t see many other possibilities.