A reader writes:
You know the odd thing? I'm not feeling … ecstatic. I'm just feeling a kind of sad relief. I recall reading Miep Gies' book about her role in hiding the Frank family. When it was declared that there was victory in Europe, she said that people in Holland were hysterical and tearing into the streets to celebrate. But her husband, who'd risked so much working in the resistance movement, just sat quietly. She asked if they should go out and celebrate with everyone. He said no. It seems too much had happened. Too much pain witnessed. Too much death as a result. He was tired. It was enough to just know that it was finally over. I think I know what he meant.
I keep reading a lot of accusations from well-meaning critics who say that those Americans who chant "USA!" and wave the flag, or are even just plain happy right now are somehow "celebrating death". (I'm particularly irked by David Sirota's finger-wagging piece). Going beyond the obviously flawed comparison of a terrorist celebrating the death of an innocent civilian to innocent civilians "celebrating the death" of a terrorist, I feel an urgent need to point this out: We are not celebrating death.
A mass-murdering and very powerful lunatic is dead, yes, but our joy just comes from the simple fact that he is not going to kill anymore. His cohorts will, yes. Like-minded fanatics may continue to do so as well, sure. But this one – the biggest terrorist there is – will not.
If the news had come in that he was no longer dead, but instead had just been put on a rocket and shot into space, or simply been captured and brought back to stand trial, we would STILL have been singing in the streets and cheering on our nation and our armed forces and Obama and … well just cheering because what the hell else have we had to cheer about in the last 10 years? A 1-1 draw with England in the World Cup?
I'm a progressive Buddhist. I abhor all violence, as it is the perpetuation of suffering. I don't celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden any more than I'd celebrate the death of anyone. It is sad that it came to this, but what I do celebrate is the look in the cheering faces of my friends and family, my fellow Americans and my fellow human beings around the world, who for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall can all find a few moments of peace and rest from a world overflowing with anxiety and fear. And I don't care much that this massive catharsis just so happens to come at the expense of a dead bogeyman.
I was struck by your mention that, as a Christian, you are required to pray for Osama Bin Laden’s soul. Somehow, as an atheist, I feel similarly.
While I am still processing this event, and am still somewhat ambiguous about it (much as I felt about the beginning of the war in Afghanistan), I must say that I am happy he was killed and not captured. The reason is that what disturbs me almost as much as the horrible carnage and moral vacuity of terrorism is the blind patriotism and blurry-eyed thirst for vengeance from some quarters of the American population. Had he been captured, and if there was any kind of a “trial” (with an outcome surely predetermined), I can only shudder to think of the rising choruses of bloodlust from our “civilized” compatriots.
I believe that this quick, brutal, and successful operation was the most merciful option both for Bin Laden and for America. The chapter is closed; it is time to move on.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was awoken by a phone call by my brother to turn on the T.V. to any channel. All I really wanted to do was go back to sleep. I turned on my T.V. and ESPN was on, but it wasn't sports. It was coverage of the terrorist attacks. In my naivete and sleepiness, I was dumbfounded that any news besides sports could be aired on ESPN besides sports news.
Last night, I was watching the Phillies/Mets game on ESPN and about to fall asleep in front of the T.V. and all the sudden I see a marquee scroll at the bottom of the screen of breaking news along with the announcement that Bin Laden has been killed. I am not sure why, but I was overcome with emotion more than I was on Sept 11, 2001.
It has been a long 10 years. It's over and I can finally go back to sleep.