Death and Punctuation

My mom called last night to tell me that Osama Bin Laden had met his end.

I told my husband, we turned on CNN, and we watched the President confirm the facts.

Fire fight.  No American casualties.  Good news.

Afterward, I logged in to Facebook and quickly updated my status to say “Ding Dong the dick is dead.  Bye bye Binny.”

In my haste, I forgot two commas.

This morning, as I stood on the school playground with my son, I started thinking about what I wrote and how I feel and what I believe.

All of my friends have organized religion in their lives.

All of them went to church and read the bible.

They know about God and Jesus.

I don’t remember it.  Not the way that they do.

I went to a Methodist Sunday School until I was four or five and then I stopped.

Honestly, it’s not for me.  I don’t regret a life outside of those stained glass windows and pretty pews.

I envy my friends the education, the greater cultural context and basis for every conversation.

Really, religion is the basis of every conversation.

But I can learn on my own by picking up a book, listening to my friends, surfing the web, and opening my mind.

I am a reluctant believer in God.

By “God,” I don’t mean some old guy with a long beard, a white robe and a cloud for a chair.

I mean “God,” as in it seems illogical to conclude that this is it.

I cannot believe that there is nothing else, you know?

No one, not even the staunchest athiest, can prove that wrong, prove that there is no God.

Whatever God is.

I am reluctant about God only because I am more comfortable with science and things I can see and understand.

And truly, I abhor the exclusionary nature of most religions.  Too many exceptions, too many rules, too many hearts broken, souls abandoned, lives ruined by exclusion.

Where is this all going?

I guess I’m trying to say that, for a brief moment on the playground this morning, I had regret over rejoicing in a man’s death.  Even this particular man.

I felt disrespectful of God and I questioned my heart to see if I meant what I said.

As I searched my feelings, the school principal asked us all to put our hands over our heart for the Pledge of Allegiance.

As an advocate for the separation of church and state, I have always taken issue with the recitation of the Pledge in public schools.

I don’t think the words “under God” are appropriate.

Despite that, I am patriotic and I do believe, however reluctantly I may confess.  I raise my right hand, I put it over my heart and I recite the Pledge with 800 children, several times a week.

It’s automatic.  I’m proud to do it.  Today, as preoccupied as I was, I didn’t think twice about it.

I was thinking about Osama Bin Laden and my missing commas.  I wasn’t sure which bothered me more, my sloppy punctuation or my satisfaction with a man’s demise.

And then I realized my autistic son was saying the Pledge too.

He has never said it in front of me before and I have always had to hold his hand in place over his heart.  Not today.

He said every word, clear as day, and though I know he doesn’t understand yet what it all means, eventually he will.  Because I will tell him.

I will teach him that he can love his country, embrace all of its people regardless of their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, their gender or their disability.

I will teach him that he can make room in his heart for any God, as he chooses.

I will teach him that he should work hard to promote peace and tolerance, and that if he ever encounters a force working purposefully, maniacally, ruthlessly, mercilessly contrary to that end, that he should feel no remorse in seeing that force struck down.

Someday, I will tell him that this feeling is occasionally acceptable.

Someday, I will tell him there are times when it’s right to be bothered more by a missing comma than by a certain missing man.


7 thoughts on “Death and Punctuation

  1. I’m with you on the religion bit (and the commas). It is hard to make sense of the sense of joy/relief that happens automatically someone, even someone who has caused great suffering, has died. At times like these I hope that after life and or reincarnation are true and that people do really reap what they should.

  2. Becky, you are to be commended and admired for your eloquence in this post. You put into words what I wish I could:)

  3. Wow, I am really impressed with this post. Dave and I were walking downtown yesterday and a news channel journalist and camera person were standing around asking people for comments. We declined because we were feeling so confused about the whole issue. How should a person feel when another person is killed? Even if that person is an enemy of the state, should we be happy? It doesn’t feel right. It such a complicated issue. Your post is so well thought out and so well expressed that I wish you had been here to give the news a statement. Thank you for this post.

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