Yesterday I admitted I was glad and grateful to learn of Osama bin Laden’s death, an emotional reaction I’ve had some difficulty connecting to my principles as I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of reveling in the death of another human being, even though he was a villain.
My niece Eliana helped me realize the complexity of the situation when she described her pride and exhilaration being part of a celebration at Ground Zero: “As I stood amongst a crowd of proud Americans, cheering and chanting and singing with American flags waving high,” she said, “I felt an uplifting sense of communal triumph.”
It was moving counterpoint to another posting by my niece Edana, responding to news that the following quotation was misattributed to Martin Luther King: “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.”
Edana said, “Regardless of its source, it perfectly describes how I’ve been feeling but have unwilling to voice in fear of being misunderstood or seeming insensitive to the pain this horrible man has caused. While . . . the death of someone evil can be a blessing that saves many – I can’t help but worry that it’s humankind’s ability to continue to find glee in the death of an enemy that perpetuates the vicious circle of violence.”
What do you think?
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
This is Eliana’s post:
I was just 9 years old. To me, the wars that we studied in history were distant memories, no longer a part of my reality. Then, one hot September morning, my parents walked into my room, pale with concern. My whole body was shaking as I waited for my parents to deliver the bad news, figuring someone I loved was dead. For me, a national crisis, a national horror was unimaginable. There was no such thing as a universal wound, a cut so deep it could be felt by a nation.
“The Twin Towers have been hit by a plane.” I remember being led across the hall into my parents’ bedroom where the TV flashed images of the crumbling towers, disintegrating behind a cloud of black smoke, thinking it was a movie. Only months before, I had stood on those buildings. Yet now, those same buildings, seemingly the most powerful and unalterable in the world, were falling to rubble before my eyes.
With comprehension came fear. My grandparents were there, living in Jersey, only a ferry away. Luckily for me, however, both were safe, although I soon realized many others had not been as fortunate. It was then that I, 3000 miles away in Southern California, realized that true unity was not something to share only in celebration but also in heartache. It was something to lift you up in triumph as much as to pick you off the floor of defeat. I was only 9 years old but I was part of a nation that was in its third century and in that moment, we all stood together.
I am now 19 years old. To me, the world has always been full of fear and war. It was a chilly May night in New York City, roughly 10:30, when I flipped up my Facebook before bed. “Osama is dead.” At first I figured it was a prank. For me, Osama was somewhat of a distant memory, an evil spirit associated more with his crimes than his being. “Osama is dead” Status after status, posting the same thing from friends all over the country. Then, a friend posted a link to a streaming video of President Obama’s speech as he confirmed that Osama bin Laden was, in fact, dead.
I cannot explain how I felt in that moment, not because it is so profound, but rather because I am not truly sure how I do feel. On one hand, I am disturbed by the moral implications of rejoicing at a man’s, even an evil man’s, death. At the same time, however, I am not able to deny the relief that pulsed through me, knowing such a great threat no longer existed.
However, as I traveled to Ground Zero at 1 AM, dressed in red, white and blue, I wasn’t thinking about Osama’s death at all. For me, that wasn’t what this was truly about. Perhaps it is because I am only 19, but as I stood amongst the crowd of proud Americans in the crisp, early morning air, chanting and cheering and singing, as American flags waved high, I was not focused on death but on rebirth. Ten years ago, a 9-year-old little girl watched in awe as a nation stood together and shouted “we won’t give in.” Last night, a 19-year-old young woman watched as a nation stood together and shouted “we never gave up.”