The first rational feelings I had after learning of Osama bin Laden’s death were a combination of shame and elation.
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I tweeted about it:
“Not to celebrate death but I’m proud of our military.”
As the evening wore on and details emerged about how our military executed the slippery terrorist, I found a better way to tweet my conflict:
“Navy Seals got Bin Laden! I feel terrible how emotional and overjoyed I am. Thank you, men/women in uniform, including firemen/women!”
I abhor violence intended to kill or do permanent harm. I was embarrassed by the joy I derived from bin Laden’s death. As an American and frequent visitor to New York, particularly during the days and months before and after 9/11, I understood why my heart was filled with emotion.
I wanted vengeance on the man my country’s leaders identified as the person responsible for the attacks on my American family.
But I believe vengeance isn’t mine.
And it’s that latter belief that guides me when assessing Rashard Mendenhall’s Twitter feed. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back is not the heir to bin Laden’s throne. Mendenhall is not our enemy. He’s not someone who needs to be beat down by the media or the public.
As best I can tell, Mendenhall is a young person with a sincere thirst for knowledge and understanding. He’s uncomfortable with violence and the celebration of it. He’s cynical. He’s spiritual. He’s unafraid to speak his mind and seek passionate debate.
As we’re prone to do in this talk-show, reality-show era, we’ve overreacted to Mendenhall’s harmless comments on Twitter.
• “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side . . .”
• “I believe in God. I believe we’re ALL his children. And I believe HE is the ONE and ONLY judge.”
• "Those who judge others, will also be judged themselves.”
• “For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn in hell and piss on his ashes, I ask how would God feel about your heart?”
• “There is not an ignorant bone in my body. I just encourage you to #think”
• “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”
(I believe this final quote has been removed from Mendenhall’s Twitter page.)
Mendenhall is a 23-year-old football player. He’s a kid expressing his opinions in 140 characters on Twitter. He’s not a U.S. diplomat. He’s not a trained, experienced journalist or broadcaster. He is intelligent. His clarification in a blog post Wednesday afternoon provides ample proof of his intellect.
But we live in this era in which grown men and women as unsophisticated as Mendenhall are given radio, TV, newspaper and Internet platforms to sound off about any and everything.
Mendenhall’s Twitter feed and immature views on foreign policy are just the kind of issue lazy talk-show hosts and their callers can wrap their minds around. Given a choice between debating Mendenhall’s tweets or whether the Pirates should go with a four- or five-man pitching rotation, Mendenhall sounds like the deep end of the pool.
Plus, the tax-fudging host gets to posture as a red-blooded, Rush Limbaugh-loving super patriot. Nothing sells better in America than faux patriotism.
Let’s crucify a 23-year-old kid for exercising the First Amendment right our troops are dying for overseas.
Can you not see that capitalism’s influence on the American media is undermining our democracy?
Money is the only reason Rashard Mendenhall’s comments are remotely newsworthy. The push for ratings and clicks made his Twitter feed irresistible.
LOOK WHAT A FOOTBALL PLAYER SAID ABOUT FOREIGN POLICY!
Hopefully some smart reporter will ask President Obama to respond to Mendenhall’s “enlightening” thoughts.
In the interest of business and good public relations, Steelers owner Art Rooney II took the bait.
“I have not spoken with Rashard, so it is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments,” Rooney said in a statement. “The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done and we can only hope this leads to our troops coming home soon.”
I actually love Rooney’s statement. On Monday, when people began asking me on Twitter for my thoughts on Mendenhall, here’s what I tweeted back:
“Nothing 2 gain n bashing Mendenhall . . . Focus on unity and good feeling sweeping our nation. Pray (hope) OBL’s death brings peace/troops home.”