[Re-printed from earlier today].
I understand those who feel that joy is not an appropriate or civilized thing to feel right now. As a Christian I am asked to pray for the soul of Osama bin Laden, not to celebrate his death. And this prayer I have spoken as I am bound to. But this is also true: the joy will not leave me either and I am not ashamed in the slightest.
In fact, the only sane thing to feel right now, I think, is both great sorrow and great joy.
The reason for the sorrow is obvious: that this one figure was capable of inflicting so much pain on so many people, that he distorted so many minds and souls, that he killed so many human beings. And that he did it all in the name of God.
The reason for the joy is actually less obvious. It is, at its best, I think, not vengeance or relief - although they are within us all, at various levels of suppression. The joy comes because somewhere we feel for the first time in so long that this hideous, bungled, tortuous, torture-filled decade of war and mass murder might, after all, have some smidgen of emotional closure, some sliver of justice in its long arc, some core thread leading to something we can call victory.
I think especially of all those young Americans who, on September 12 2001, woke up and decided to serve their country in her hour of need. I think of all those who signed up for war because of 9/11. And let's face it. They did not sign up because they wanted to re-shape the Middle East, or bring democracy to Iraq, or to bribe Hamid Karzai.
They signed up to find, capture, or kill Osama bin Laden.
They signed up to attack everything he represents.
It gives bin Laden too much credit to say he made them soldiers. But they became soldiers because of his crime and what he had done to the country they loved.
Many of them were cheering last night. But many were not alive to do so. I think particularly of those men and women now. They died in battle not knowing that America would eventually, finally find this murderer, and bring him to justice. Imagine telling them now, as if they were still alive, "We got him! We got bin Laden!" Imagine the look on their faces. Imagine what you see in their eyes.
And then look at their faces as you also tell them that it was done by Navy SEALS, in a gun-battle, where bin Laden was given the option of surrender, and refused. And then we ensured that his funeral was a dignified one, in accordance with the protocols of Islam.
Which is to say to our heroes: You did not die in vain. And your comrades finished the job.
And who can not feel joy at that?
(Photo: Cpl Patrick Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinals linebacker. November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004.)