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.