The small seashell caught my eye on an otherwise flat shoreline. It's coral-colored ridges and dark grey-green back stood in stark contrast to the light-colored sand.
In the predawn light, the beach was empty, and I consciously created a walking meditation. Each toe to heel motion was an act of grounding; each rise of foot, a lift toward heaven. This is what we do, I thought. We walk the earth, looking for answers to questions that never cease.
I turn the shell in my hand, run my fingers over the tiny ridges of an opening. The shell is simple. Its life seems simple. It held no knowledge of the type of wars raged outside its watery home.
The news of the death of the self-proclaimed perpetrator of terror Osama bin Laden brought me no great joy, but opened my heart and mind to another round of internal exploration. While I do not consider myself a vengeful person, I admit to immense cheer at the removal of bin Laden's presence.
I am also not so naïve as to believe that his death means the end of anything — only closure to a manhunt. What has happened? A page has been turned, one evil man has been removed, and hundreds or thousands are waiting to take his place.
Our ideology is also our stranglehold. In the West, we believe ourselves to be a peace-loving population, but we are engaged in so many disparate wars in an attempt to protect that peace, that names and titles have ceased to have meaning. Who is right and who is wrong? History, religion, cultural differences often pits us one against another.
Bin Laden's interpretation of the Koran — an interpretation highly refuted by those in both the East and West — declared Americans as infidels, worthy of death. My mind found it impossible to believe I should die simply because I didn't share his worldview. His teachings spawned a generation of bomb victims — both those who would sacrifice themselves as an assured ticket to heaven, and those who were maimed or murdered as collateral damage.
I weep for their loss. I weep for any indoctrination that removes self-responsibility from decision-making and choice. I suppose that means I rage against authority, but it isn't quite that simple.
In the United States, we pride ourselves on what we have achieved since our birth as a nation. We "export" freedom in all of its glory and proudly stand behind democracy as a way of life — a way of life that has given us opportunities that are the envy of most other nations.
Sadly, it is the same opportunities that allowed bin Laden's minions to come to the United States to be trained — trained to assault our country and residents. How could this be prevented, and still hold to our foundation as a free nation? How many are here, moving through our educational system, doing the same?
As our virtual existence expands, it is harder to "hide in plain sight," yet it continues to happen every day. Again, our ideologies are our strength and our weakness. We embrace and have embraced wave after wave of immigrants. But our own history — look only so far as the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who happened to be of Japanese descent — shows our own weak underbelly.
Color of skin, coarseness of hair, accented language — our prejudice bleeds through our all-men-are-created-equal speak. We embrace refugees from war-torn far locals, but fail to comprehend that poverty — a war in and of itself — drives death-daring attempts to cross our borders.
We blame the immigrants — not the structures or social systems we have in place — for burdening our welfare rolls or medical system. We proclaim it loudly, again, all men are created equal, but have a difficult time living with our position. Equal if you are born here or rescued from a war.
I am sure these words will inflame the hawks and those who hold to an extreme political right. I imagine they will suggest that I am naïve, that I don't understand the world. I will argue I do understand the world. I simply dream of something better than the backbiting, name calling, undermining, belittling calls of talk radio, blogs, TV celebrity shows, and "accidental" bombing of innocent children.
I dream that true peace we ask for can be manifested. And I know that as long as those who hold bin Laden's model to be true my dream will take generations to be realized.
I clasp my beach shell tightly in my hand and think, maybe.
CATHARINE COOPER loves wild and free places. She can be reached at email@example.com.