With the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden, it appears that hardly anyone is without some sort of reaction. I am no exception.
Last night I witnessed the pundits lobbing perspectives back and forth. I saw Facebook statuses blow up with cheers and exultation. I watched news cameras pan across celebratory dances, hand-hoisted American flags, fists pumping in the air. And it made me sad.
When I first heard the news I thought I might have felt some sense of closure. But I did not and do not feel I can celebrate the loss of a human life. I cannot help but feel for those that loved Bin Laden, his family, those close to him, that are mourning the loss of his life. Is one person more entitled to lose a loved one than another? I feel like every triumphant shout of glee is like saying “In your face!” to the children, the parents, and the wives of this man.
As much as each person that is rejoicing feels the need to voice and to express their reaction to the news of Bin Laden’s death, I feel the need to voice mine. I understand that people feel a relief that the figurehead of terror has been taken down permanently. I understand the long felt rage of those that lost loved ones and fellow citizens in the September 11 attacks. So I do not want to challenge how they feel, as it is their right to feel as they feel. And it is my right to feel as I do.
The general celebratory reaction feels to me like a public hanging. Like a lynch mob that has seen justice served on its terms. That is not to say that justice was not due this man; perhaps what was done had to be done. But have we really put an end to this madness when the loss of the life of a human being is an invitation to partay? I have to follow this down the proverbial rabbit hole. Chasing it in its forward direction, will the assassination of this terrorist leader end terrorism altogether? Will these extremists that carry such vitriol toward Western culture suddenly run like cats at the sound of a shotgun? Will they all of a sudden say, “Looks like our world view is all wrong, since the U.S. will eventually get us in the end”?
Looking backwards over the shoulder of this geo-socio-ethical-theological melee, what brought us to this point? What about our culture gave rise to such disdain by theirs? Did it begin with the exploitation of their most prized natural resource? Was it our incessant meddling in their political system? What did we “fix” with the killing of Osama Bin Laden? What did we accomplish beyond what a crowd with torches and pitchforks would have?
This cultural tit-for-tat of face slapping merely continues with each returned slap being harder than the last. It merely causes the recipient to draw back their hand further to gain more force for their next slap. At no point during a slap fight fueled by this much hatred does one person say “Uncle”; rather, they go to their daddy’s gun cabinet and grab a means of finishing the fight once and for all. While we raise our banners and cry “Got ‘im!” we forget our own culpability in this seemingly incessant feud, believing “they” drew first blood. We whistle merrily from gas station to gas station while their countries continue to see human rights trample under the boot of despotism aided by our underhanded efforts to secure our economic interests in the region.
As long as we stand in our refusal to consider the “enemy” as actual human beings, we cannot be surprised when they in turn refuse to see us as human beings. I don’t expect anyone to embrace this view, but while we are all boldly stating how we feel, I’m taking my turn here. Do with it what you will.