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Dr. John Demartini Headshot

Balance in a Post Bin Laden America

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What some of the people from within the United States are going through at this moment might be called the slow come-down following the celebratory euphoria at the killing of Osama bin Laden. It might make sense that some would feel a sense of relief, even jubilation, at the news that the man who haunted the shadows of America's national consciousness for ten years is no longer a threat. Some people wanted to see so-called justice done, and many perceive that it was. But that elation could not have lasted. It is wise that such extreme feelings do not last.

Obviously, just because Osama bin Laden is dead does not mean the 'threat' is over. Bin Laden may have been the figurehead for Americans who perceive him wishing to do them harm but he certainly was not the only one wishing to do so. It is still wise to be vigilant, and it is this very vigilance that will create an atmosphere, not of dread, but of strength and endurance. The understanding that there are others out there with alternative and even violently opposing values and intentions, and the understanding that these viewpoints create equilibrium with our own is what helps us to evolve. The U.S. may have killed bin Laden but once you destroy the target that you know, it is wise to realize that you also increase the odds of generating targets that you don't know. As long as those differing cultural viewpoints exist, new oppositions are inevitable. Attempting to avoid what is essentially unavoidable is the essence of human suffering, but likewise is the desire to obtain that which is unobtainable. Once again, wisdom embraces the two sides of this struggle at once: the supportive and challenging, the positive and negative, like the two sides of a magnet. One-sided magnets are unattainable; 'national magnetism,' likewise, demands the whole.

To some extent, America has been defined by enemies. Enemies play a vital role in making a country more powerful. If a sports team plays an opponent that is not challenging enough, it does not see the optimal growth of its skills and abilities. If a nation is not opposed by another nation or a common enemy, it can become complacent and stagnant; it requires a challenging opponent to keep it moving forward. History has shown a constant push-and-pull between supporters and challengers, allies and enemies, cooperation and competition in all areas of life and throughout time. These make up the true balance of nature. As with predator and prey in ecology, so, too, the same in sociology.

So, no, we cannot expect that because Osama bin Laden is gone, there will be complete security. The reality is that there will always be insecurity in all our lives and if it isn't something that can be personified by an enemy like bin Laden, our psyches will shift it to some other form; it will manifest itself as financial insecurity, social insecurity, relationship or spiritual insecurity. And again, that insecurity is essential to us because it helps us continue to refine our actions so that we can be better prepared to tackle whatever new challenges life sends our way. Personally, I have learned to embrace the two complementary sides of the coin rather than futilely believing that I can somehow rid myself of insecurity; it can no more be done away with completely than the feeling of comfort and security that balances it out. Sure, we strive for the illusion of constant safety, but even if that feeling were possible, would it really be wise for us in the long run? Remember that the predator is always waiting for the prey that has become full from its own meal and is now slow and vulnerable.

It is wise to keep our eyes open for the next predator -- whatever form that predator may take -- and in this we can grow stronger. Maybe it's wisest to think of it in terms of police work: as the criminal strikes, the police are forced to try to out-think and stay a step ahead, which makes the criminal get smarter to stay a step ahead of them, and that forces the police to then adapt and evolve and so on. Both grow in tandem. The same holds true for peace and war and for all other forms of complementary polarities that make up our human existence.

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