While Osama bin Laden’s compound was being raided I was on stage at a FODfest concert some 7,000 miles away. It was the final of three shows that weekend that included nearly 100 musicians from the tri-state area in a real time demonstration of the power of music to bring people together. Those familiar with FODfest know that I started it in response to the tragic death of my friend Danny Pearl, the Wall St. Journal and former Berkshire Eagle reporter. Shortly after he was abducted and killed, the world learned that al Qaeda was responsible for Danny’s murder. In fact, it was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, third in command of al Qaeda at the time and mastermind behind the 911 attacks, who beheaded Danny and who, after extensive questioning, provided the information that ultimately lead the U.S. military to bin Laden’s compound. The fact that bin Laden’s life was being taken at the same time we were celebrating somebody whose life was taken by him is more than just a weird twist of fate. It is an eerie paradox.
Danny Pearl was a kind and gentle soul whose smile lit up a room. Armed with a sense of adventure, unwavering loyalty to friends and family, an affinity for fun, and a quirky sense of humor, Danny was a one of a kind friend. He was the type of person people wanted to be around. His life’s work in journalism and music was a relentless quest for the truth, a principal he held sacred. He was the embodiment of all that is right in the world and the perfect candidate I suppose for a group of hate mongering terrorists to employ their evil upon in an effort to spread their message of hatred and violence.
I will never forget the pain I felt the day I learned of my friend’s death and I will never forgive those who committed that heinous crime. There is no word despicable or unconscionable enough to describe what they did. Yet, as I watched the news coverage of bin Laden’s death my heart sank with disappointment and raced with alarm. I watched in disbelief as people danced and rejoiced on the streets of New York, in the pubs of DC, and elsewhere throughout the country like fans at a college football game. I was sickened by the media who encouraged the behavior even further by eating up every minute of it and giving their stamp of approval by doing so.
Don’t get me wrong. I am as relieved as the next guy to know that Osama bin Laden can never again inflict the kind of pain and suffering that he did in the 911 attacks, the murder of my friend Danny, and the scores of other acts of terror he either organized or inspired. But what good can possibly come from dancing on his grave? It will not bring back our loved ones who are no longer with us because of his evil doing. And while bin Laden himself may never be able to harm us again, are we so naïve to think that the hatred and violence that he propagated died with him? I shudder at the thought of the retaliatory actions our celebratory reactions might incite.
This is not about morality. This is about common sense. A more constructive and effective way to combat terrorism is to focus our energies on creating a world in which hate and violence cease to exist. Beating our chests and sticking our tongues out is counterproductive to that and will only result in inciting further violence. It provides fuel to the fire for those who seek to do evil. It provides them an excuse to hate us, a target towards which to direct their violence, and a weapon to recruit and incite followers. It is, in fact, the first step toward creating the next bin Laden – a step that I, for one, will not partake in. I will not honor him nor the hatred and violence that he stands for in that way. I owe my friend at least that. Rather, I will keep working for a world in which tragedies such as 911 and the murder of Daniel Pearl cannot repeat themselves - a world in which dialogue, civility, and mutual respect replace war, violence, and hatred. I will keep singing for peace as I did that fateful Sunday afternoon.
Todd Mack is a writer, musician, and producer, and owner of the Off the Beat-n-Track recording studio in Sheffield, MA. He is also the founder and executive director of Music in Common, a non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen, empower, and educate communities through the universal language of music. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.