Osama bin Laden Dead: Reflections on Celebration

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  • Last night President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a US military operation in Pakistan. Within minutes, we watched as America celebrated.

    While part of me was relieved that the head of the snake known as Al Qaeda had been chopped off, part of me felt a sadness at our revelry. Don’t get me wrong- I was happy to hear that bin Laden could no longer spread his hate for America. I love this country and I’ve spent a good deal of my time/resources supporting our troops, even creating and delivering the World’s Longest Letter of Love and Support to our troops, when I accompanied my daughter on a month-long tour of Iraq and six countries in the Persian Gulf. I love the ideals that America stands for and I’m proud to be an American.

    While a part of me was greatly relieved at the extinguishing of a force of evil, like many of us, another part was conflicted inside. Even knowing the horrific, unspeakable acts that bin Laden was responsible for, I still had incongruous thoughts inside between the “eye for an eye” teachings of the Old Testament, versus the all-loving teachings of “turn the other cheek” from the New Testament. Although I would categorize myself as spiritual rather than religious, I still asked myself, “What would Jesus think? What would Mother Teresa do? What would Gandhi say? What would Mohammad feel? What would the Dalai Lama tweet?”

    This morning, I’m grateful that the world may be a more peaceful place. Osama bin Laden and Al Queda represent the worst of humanity. They are murderers and since the attack on 9/11, many have lived in a state of fear. From that perspective, it seems only natural to celebrate something that begins to chip away at the layers of fear that terrorism has created. Al Qaeda did their unspeakable acts, and we, in turn, demanded retribution. Many felt justified in killing bin Laden, and even in celebrating our victory.

    Yet, a part of me wondered if this was morally wrong. This is not a simple discussion, as evidenced by Twitter, which was a buzz with tweets ranging from celebratory tweets like “#ObamaGotOsama- We got him!” to tweets questioning why we can’t celebrate peace instead of death. Both the Atlantic and Christianity Today took it one step further and posted a blog of tweets from Twitter with conflicting quotes from scripture, arguing various Biblical positions.

    It wasn’t until I processed this conflict with my husband today that I felt I had personally reached a place of greater understanding. As humans, we love to celebrate. Just watching the fans of a winning sports team after victory, shows how the camaraderie and connectedness we feel almost acts as an emotional release for the stress of everyday life. I understand that as humans, winning makes us feel better. The end of Osama bin Laden’s hatred was a cause for great relief.

    The majority of the people celebrating on the streets were young people. As a 52 year old, 10 years isn’t a significant chunk of time for me, but as a 20 year-old, the world they knew just ten years ago, when they were just 10 years old, is dramatically different. Their perspective is altered as half of their lives they’ve known the fear of terrorism. Just imagining the impact of 9/11 on a 10 year old makes it easier to understand the outpouring of relief and even celebration we witnessed last night.

    My parent’s generation had World War II, Hitler and the Korean War. We had Vietnam and the end of the Cold War with the falling of the Berlin Wall. Do you remember how we celebrated the end of these events? We all know it would be naive to think that the war on terrorism is over. But, I believe the death of Osama bin Laden will go down in history, not as a celebration of his death, but as a milestone towards peace.

    I can only imagine the sense of relief that the families of those who died on 9/11 must be feeling right now. I’d like to think that rather than rejoicing at the killing of a specific person, we, as a country, are celebrating the end of a tortured chapter that has remained open for the last decade. We are taking solace in a sense of accomplishment and closure. We are celebrating that, with the elimination of a force of evil, we are one step closer to peace on Earth.

    As you watched the special news coverage last night, what did it bring up for you? Were you joyful, reflective, or oblivious? Were you in any way conflicted by your personal feelings of relief and celebration versus your religious or spiritual beliefs? Do you feel safer today than you did yesterday?

    Last night, we watched history in the making, and today we have the opportunity to discuss it and learn from it. Many Americans have paid and continue to pay a big price for our freedom. One of the benefits of living in a free country is that regardless of our opinion, we have the ability to speak out and voice it.

    As I see it, the opportunity here isn’t in being right or in proving someone else wrong, but rather, in looking within to find the deeper meaning for ourselves. Please share your thoughts below in the hopes that regardless of our race, nationality, religion, gender, age or sexual orientation, we can find deeper meaning, learn from the past, celebrate the good things in our world and take one step closer to creating a greater global understanding.

    As the words of the song remind us…. Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.

    Gail Lynne Goodwin

    Gail Lynne Goodwin is the founder of InspireMeToday.com, bringing the best inspiration to the world. InspireMeToday.com provides free inspiration, each day from a new Inspirational Luminary, to a global community of folks from over 150 countries. Gail has interviewed many well-known names including Sir Richard Branson, Guy Laliberte, Seth Godin, Tony Hseih, Gary Vaynerchuk, Michael Gerber, Marci Shimoff, Jack Canfield and hundreds more. According to Mashable, Gail was one of 2009's Top 25 Most Inspirational People on Twitter. Prior to InspireMeToday.com, Gail spent several years as manager for her recording artist daughter, Carly. As a result of the success of their co-penned song, "Baby Come Back Home", Gail accompanied her daughter to bases in the US and to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where Carly performed for our troops. Gail and Carly created the 'World's Longest Letter' of love and support and delivered the 18-mile long scroll on a month-long tour of Iraq and the Persian Gulf in 2006. Gail is excited to present her latest course, Love in 21 Days, a step-by-step guide to finding love online. Love in 21 Days is founded on a logical process that has been tested - and proven! - by not only Gail, but also by students around the world who too have found love. Gail is a published author and a regular writer for the Huffington Post. She offers mentoring and mastermind services to clients worldwide from her home in Whitefish, Montana. Follow Gail on Twitter or Google+.

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    1. Jeanette
      Jeanette says:

      Dear Gail,

      You covered many of the same discussions my family had last night. At first, it was party time. Then I remembered seeing my grandson in a play during Easter where we were reminded not to celebrate the death of the Christians when the Jews crossed the Red Sea. God said, “Do not celebrate the death of my people.”

      As a spiritual woman who loves Jews, Christians, and all faiths, I honor the thought of not celebrating death but celebrating Peace. I heard one mother who lost her son on 9/11 complain that she wanted to see the body and she hoped Osama bin Laden was tortured. I feel her pain. However, nothing can ease the loss of a child except Love and Peace. I speak from experience.

      Let’s celebrate saving lives, love one another, and bring about Peace. It is time.

      Love,
      Jeanette

      Reply
      • Gail
        Gail says:

        Jeanette, it’s a good thing to discuss these big issues with our families. I agree with you that it’s time to bring peace into our world, and it always starts in our homes and in our families. Thank you for sharing your bright light with the world.
        Hugs,
        Gail

        Reply
    2. Erin
      Erin says:

      I felt a sense of sadness and frustration. Weren’t we the same people who in 2011 condemned people for dancing in the street after the Twin Towers fell?

      I, too, can appreciate the sense of relief. However, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Justice is one thing. Vengeance is quite another.

      When we truly understand how precious life is, we begin to look for ways to spread love and understanding. Any life lost is cause for sadness.

      Let’s remember the loss of life on 9.11 and honor the memory of those passed by creating a peaceful, loving world where there is no cause for violence or vengeance.

      Reply
      • Gail
        Gail says:

        Erin, that says it all….Weren’t we the same people who in 2011 condemned people for dancing in the street after the Twin Towers fell?

        Thank you for being a peacemaker and sharing your words with us.

        Hugs,
        Gail

        Reply
    3. Kieran
      Kieran says:

      These are my sentiments, exactly. When I found out the news about Bin Laden’s death, naturally, I was relieved that such a murderous being had had a taste of his own medicine. However, as the night progressed and the thoughtless jokes were being spread across Twitter and Facebook, I thought to myself: “What if it had been my father or brother or uncle?” Crimes against humanity aside, Osama was a human. He killed mercilessly, he plotted, he was a coward. But he was still a human. I felt terrible and unpatriotic – even though I’m not American – for thinking these thoughts. I thought people would sneer at my views and think that I was some sort of supporter of terrorism. Then, I discovered I had these thoughts because I had a heart and thankfully, for the world, I’m not the only one. We can kill as many terrorists as we like but I believe that it is the hearts of the good-hearted that will heal the world and inevitably, bring peace.

      Reply
      • Gail
        Gail says:

        Kieran, thank you for sharing an international perspective. I love your last line- “We can kill as many terrorists as we like but I believe that it is the hearts of the good-hearted that will heal the world and inevitably, bring peace.”
        Thanks and hugs,
        Gail

        Reply
    4. Jen
      Jen says:

      I most certainly did not celebrate the death of bin Laden. Like you, I am relieved but I never find it appropriate to celebrate anyone’s death. It still marks the loss of life. People loved him, depended on him, and cared for him despite who he was.

      I think this quote says it best:

      “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

      Sincerely,
      Jen

      Reply
      • Gail
        Gail says:

        Jen, thank you for your comment. I love the quote and really appreciate your sharing it with us.

        Hugs,
        Gail

        Reply
    5. Liza Gould
      Liza Gould says:

      A quote from a great pacifist who wrought tremendous change in a hate-filled society:

      “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

      Reply
    6. Scott MacKinnon
      Scott MacKinnon says:

      Hi Gail,
      I know your quandry about feelings here. I don’t feel revenge. I feel relief. It may have been an execution, but more importantly an extermination. It’s like finding and removing the source of a cancer or the extermination of a rabid beast. When I first heard of the celebrations it surprised me, but the relative youth of the bulk of celebrants has given me a sense of warm wonder. I can’t yet explain it. Is it okay to celebrate? Would it be okay to celebrate the permanent banishment of the Devil from our world? Yup.

      Reply
      • Gail
        Gail says:

        Scott, thank you for sharing your comments. This is one topic that will be debated for a long time, and ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer. As individuals we each have to find the deeper meaning for ourselves. Thanks again for reading the blog and for sharing your perspective.

        Hugs,
        Gail

        Reply
    7. Father Miles
      Father Miles says:

      Thank you for your provocative email and profound blog!! I haven’t said a word to anyone so far because my feelings and beliefs are so deeply contrary to almost everyone else’s convictions!

      So, since you asked, my opinion is: I think we are missing the whole point!

      Perhaps this matter should be referred to Miss Manners for a common sense, wiser, more mature response…
      I watched the morning news at our gym and the sense of rejoicing was sickening. I stopped watching, listening and reading and avoided the topic for the rest of the day!! (And, now, you, you little angel, have challenged me to formulate and express my inner convictions…

      I thank you and my spiritual director thanks you and my conscience thanks you!!!

      Our much too-young and inexperienced President announced innocently and proudly that “justice has been done.” Jimmy Carter is the only president—and perhaps Jack Kennedy—mature, intelligent and bright enough to have approached it differently (even if sending in the Navy Seals or special troops was less morally evil than a devastating bombing of the hideout base in Pakistan…) at least civilian deaths were minimized.

      In all these situations, my ethical memory drifts back to the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s in the Ozarks, or the Protestants and the Catholics in my homeland of Ireland, or the Israelis and the Palestinians in the (not so) Holy Land: all about getting even or you blow up our school bus full of children, we blow up two of your school busses full of children….Well, that should certainly prove a deterrent, that will end this endless cycle of violence, and, at least, will make all of us feel better……..(BUT IT DOESN’T, NOT REALLY, AND NOT FOR VERY LONG!)

      I served as part-time chaplain to San Quentin Maximum Security Prison from 1964 to 1968 and there were over 100 cons on death row…We studied the impact of the “Death Penalty” on the incidence of major crime. Ironically and amazingly—Dr. Tony Amsterdam’s research documented this at Stanford University and I hosted several TV programs about it. In brief: whenever a state in the U.S. introduces capital punishment, capital crime does NOT go down but UP! The “eye for the eye” as you put it or “the life for the life” simply does not work!!!

      I remember interviewing capital criminal Eldridge Cleaver on my twice weekly TV show, I Believe, and asking him for his evaluation of capital punishment and he responded: “It works for you white honkies—but not for us or for the criminals….” In one sentence, he identified the fatal flaw with an eye for an eye or a life for a life or a bus for a bus or a “we’ll get back at you” and then we will all feel better and justice will be done….

      Immediately after 9/11, the world and the media began to ask “Why could anyone hate us this much?” “Is it possible that our foreign policy and priorities are unbalanced?” “Are we favoring the Israelis unfairly without equal regard for the Arabs?” “What exactly are the root causes of this hatred and horror?” And for almost two days, we were introspective, questioning and open to learn, and then President Bush, suggested to America that we “fight” against the “evil forces” by returning to the shopping malls (as if the real issues were economic!!)

      Every study for the last 25 years: What are the most powerful weapons for mass social change in our world: the answer is not weaponry or politics or even the economy…..The most powerful weapons for change in today’s world are: EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION!

      Locating Bin Laden as the CIA finally did, created a teachable moment—which is for teaching—not for vengeance (which goes nowhere!) We have to stop sending in the troops—and start sending in the educators and communicators!

      Then we can pray for them—and not for this old fashioned, out of date, ineffective approach to conflict and real crisis and begin to create a new world.

      I said often to my good Father who served in the Air Force during WWII: “Killing for peace is like fornicating for chastity!”

      With Hope and Love, FrMiles
      Father Miles, Retired Catholic Priest

      Reply
      • Gail
        Gail says:

        Father Miles,

        I love your message and confess that I burst out laughing at your last line. 🙂

        Thank you for shining your light so brightly. You are such a gift in my life!

        Love and hugs,
        Gail

        Reply
    8. Liza Gould
      Liza Gould says:

      Thank you Father Miles for so eloquently stating what i felt but was unable to express. Fundamentally, if we react to violence with violence, we have lost touch w/ our humanity….on both sides of the equation.

      I wanted to share here a post from the FB page of a friend of mine:

      “In 2006, in Lancaster County, Pa., a gunman burst into a schoolroom and killed five Amish girls before taking his own life. The response of the Amish community to this tragedy fascinated the whole world.

      First, a delegation of elders visited the widow of the murderer, to offer forgiveness. Next, the families of the slain girls invited the widow to their own children’s funeral. Next, they requested that all the relief money coming in from around the world, intended for the Amish families, be shared with the widow and her children. And finally, in the most astonishing act of reconciliation, dozens of Amish families attended the funeral of the killer.

      Is it too much to hope for, that we as a nation might someday be able and willing to transcend a tragedy like 9/11 with the Amish response?”

      Reply
    9. shirley
      shirley says:

      I completely agree.there are times when things are so tough and I turn to God,I say glance at my direction father,he has never failed me.I don’t know his plans for my life and that of my family,but I trust him because he knows.and he will do a better job than I can ever think of.

      Reply

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