Discerning Humanity After Bin Laden’s Death

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Holocaust Oratoria commissioned by Catholic priest

Also published in MinnPost.

Andrea Morisette Grazzini, May 3, 2011

Perhaps no news topic has captured such attention by people of all ages and walks of life around the world as the death of Osama bin Laden.  An historical connection some see as unmistakable is that Adolf Hitler apparently died on nearly the same day in 1945.

I’m not sure if this is simple coincidence or something more.  What I am sure is of the starkness of contrasts between hatred embodied and after-the-fact humanity that comes to light only in hindsight of death.

When public leaders (be they angels or demons) die, many people whose practice of mutually-destructive rhetoric has been the only discernible evidence of relationship, suddenly see in each other someone more human. Perhaps even a reflection of self.

My knowledge here is far from novel.  Nothing others haven’t communicated since, well, the dawn of humanity (regardless where one puts its genesis).

Still I see the effects in action in personal communications, everyday.  My recent reminders come from friends of starkly different beliefs.

One is a mother I connected with when our children were young, before their family moved to Israel so her husband could serve in its military.  Monday, while most were speculating about Bin Laden’s demise, she posted a memorial on her Facebook in recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day to honor her great-grandparents, who were killed by Nazis.

Another is a liberal-leaning academic who has sought non-partisan peace with others in our suburban community.   His editorial letter in a local newspaper captured striking contrasts between the recent beatification of Pope John Paul II and American military occupations related to Bin Laden.

The Poland-raised leader sought peace by reaching beyond boundaries of religiosity.  Including to Jews like those he grew up playing with and Muslims to whom he apologized ten years ago — nearly to the day of the Bin Laden and Hitler deaths — for his church’s brutality against them during the Crusades.

As coincidence would have it, my two friends perspectives converged somewhere in cyberspace.  Though neither I, or they, knew at the time.

While my colleague the peace-activist was emailing his thoughts about breaking through boundaries of faith beliefs to end war, I was sending video of a Holocaust oratorio to my other friend, who has returned to Minnesota after living amid a holy war.

The relational poignancy was deepened by my knowledge of how the Stephen Paulus oratorio, called To Be Certain of the Dawn,” came to be.  A Catholic priest commissioned the piece as a gift to Jewish people in recognition of Christian complicity with Holocaust genocide against them.

Rev. Fr. Michael J. O’Connell engaged The Minnesota Orchestra to create and debut the piece.  It traveled to Europe, where O’Connell was present with his Minnesota peer Rabbi Joseph Edelheit to witness an unprecedented expression of after-the-fact humanity.  As students from a conservative-leaning American college performed the piece at a German concentration camp. Many were so emotional they had all they could do to hold their notes.

Would that we all could so clearly discern how we as people, regardless our political or faith perspectives, can reclaim and reflect our humanity.  And sustain both personally and publicly constructive relationships.

Andrea Morisette Grazzini is founder of DynamicShift.




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