The Communitarian Soul: Bin Laden and ClosureWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
So we got him. Our whole nation has breathed a collective sigh of relief. Some suggested that this was our V-J day. People poured into the streets of many cities. Eight years to the day a former President stood on the deck of The U.S. S. Abraham Lincoln under the banner “Mission Accomplished” we can now say it has been. Those Navy SEALs are great. Our intelligence community rose to the challenge and worked together … Our President demonstrated that a Democrat can be as tough as a Republican. Most of us, regardless of our political affiliation are proud. Now we are going through the usual process of trying to figure out what all of this means. Will this shorten the war in Afghanistan? Will this mean the end of Al-Qaida? Will Muammar Gaddafi be next?: I will leave those questions to the talking heads on Cable News
One of the aspects of this event that has intrigued me is that it has called our nation into that occasional conversation about “closure.” Numerous times in the days that followed, we have watched reporter after reporter interviewing the 9/11 surviving families. We have heard them share a few things about the loved ones that died, express how they feel about Bin Laden’s demise, and often talk about the relationships that have been forged with other surviving members. As the interview nears its end, in every interview I saw, the reporter asked the question that often gets asked in situations like this: “Do you now have closure?”
In each interview, the 9/ll survivor would pause, a pained smiled would crease the survivor’s face. Then the clearly stated answer would be shared: “no.” The survivor would share how much the victim is missed. Alas, there is no closure.
I wonder where this idea of closure comes from? Was it created by type A personality types that are anxious to get their grief stricken employees mourning the loss of a loved ones to move on so they can become fully productive again? Was it created by those who advocate certain theories about justice? One of the arguments that we often hear considering the need for maintaining the death penalty is that it gives the survivors “closure.” Was it created by the funeral industry, an industry I relate to quite a bit, to justify its practices? Or did it simply arise out of a culture that harbors a major league denial over the more difficult realities we humans eventually face?
I don’t know the answer of this, but I do know this, the whole concept of closure is one huge crock of (use your imagination)! For the most part, people have this habit of becoming entangled in the lives of those they love. They get used to having them around. The thought of that person not being there becomes unthinkable. A sudden death, especially a tragic one is disorienting, bewildering and insufferable. It leaves in its wake unanswered questions, unresolved feelings, and a soul wound that will never fully be healed. Even a though a lingering death may be expected and offer time for people to resolve issues and say their good byes, when it happens, it still throws the survivor into pain and sorrow that leaves a scar on the soul. Few of us escape this. Because of my job, I thought I would be immuned to much of this. When my father died four years ago, I was stunned to learn that I wasn’t.
Maybe for those who love deeply, the best that can be hoped for is a negotiated truce with their grief. This truce allows them to return to work, pick up the pieces, rejoin their life. But in the quiet moments, the cracks and crevices of everyday life, the wound will make itself known. The survivors of the 9/11 tragedy know this in ways that are unimaginable to most of us. Perhaps their wisdom will help us give up on this silliness called “closure” and find the courage and faith we all need to confront the painful realities that often visit us.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist pastor who works in Bowling Green, Ohio.