As I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done?

zd30

The Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama Bin Laden is staying anonymous, but speaking out in a recent Esquire article (“The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed) about how he’s unemployed and afraid for his wife and children’s lives.

About killing Bin Laden, he says:

And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him.

If you’ve watched the recent film Zero Dark Thirty then you already have a picture in your head about how this killing went down. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about how they found Bin Laden and how they killed him.

The movie ends with a similar sentiment as The Shooter’s above quote. In the last scene of ZD30, Jessica Chastain, who plays Mya the CIA agent who’s spent the last 12 years and her entire CIA career hunting down Bin Laden, boards an empty plane. In the last few moments before the movie ends something interesting happens.

After Mya sits down in the empty plane, she cries. It’s possible she’s finally shedding happy tears, or mourning the friends she lost in the war, or she’s simply having a cathartic moment. But I want to suggest an alternative interpretation to the moment, to the movie, and to the real life story that’s closely aligned to the questions of The Shooter.

I believe Mya is doubting whether it was all worth it. The years, the lives lost, the resources expended, and the eventual anti-climatic feeling of elation mixed with disgust.

Hunting down a man in order to kill him, regardless of his crimes, I think, will always force one to question the purpose of the particular/personal death, especially when the hunt comes at a great worldly cost.

Was this the best thing to ever happen to Mya? Or the worst?

I think the movie and the real life story want us to wrestle with the latter. In real life, Mya’s character did cry when she saw Bin Laden’s body. I think I would too if finding him was my life’s work.

This is not a question of whether or not a mastermind behind mass-murder should be brought to justice, that goes without saying. But the collateral damage becomes something more than ever imagined. It’s fair we ask the question. And then ask more questions…

Violence, in its many forms, raises for us questions about evil in our world that we would rather avoid asking. If we believe in a God, why does our God allow such evil to exist? If we believe in peace, when is it proper to resort to the violence of war? If we believe in a state of social equilibrium called justice, how do we restore it after violence has created chaos? (Tom Palaima, Higher Education)

As the Esquire article narrates, how does a Navy SEAL create a civilian/family life after war? As Zero Dark Thirty suggests, what’s a worthy life goal besides hunting down a man? And what we must consider about our own world, how do we restore it?

5 thoughts on “As I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done?

  1. I watched that film about two weeks ago, and it was so surreal and frightening. It had me thinking about it a full two or three days after. That last scene when the invade Bin Laden’s house was the most scary.

  2. This quote …

    Violence, in its many forms, raises for us questions about evil in our world that we would rather avoid asking. If we believe in a God, why does our God allow such evil to exist? If we believe in peace, when is it proper to resort to the violence of war? If we believe in a state of social equilibrium called justice, how do we restore it after violence has created chaos?

    … is something I’ve thought of often. I don’t like violence, but we live in a world of extremes in beliefs and experiences. The question for me is how do we coexist?

    Excellent post and excellent film. I saw it and was moved beyond words.

  3. Reblogged this on The Coaching Bible and commented:
    As we look at Purpose today, an interesting perspective from a fellow blogger shows up in my reader. It brings to the forefront the question “What is your life’s work?” Is what you are focused on too small? Too temporary? What happens when you have achieved it? Does life end at the fulfillment of the purpose you have chosen?

  4. I read Esquire from time to time in Adelaide’s research library so I will check this one out ; and thanks btw for following my blog; I will endeavour to make it worthwhile

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