There is a controversy roiling on the internet regarding the death of Osama bin Laden. It is perhaps the second most foolish controversy surrounding this historic event.
(The most foolish controversy—that he isn’t really dead—is too stupid for words. I will leave that one alone.)
The controversy centers on the following questions: Is the celebration of the news of Bin Laden’s death inappropriate? Is it un-Christian? Are those uncomfortable celebrating his death unpatriotic? Or un-American?
Like any American over the age of fifteen or so I know where I was when the planes hit the World Trade Center. I was at home 3,000 miles away and that day is still burned into my memory. I can’t begin to imagine how the people who lived through the attack—some losing family or friends—recall that horrible day, and I can’t begin to judge how they react when they finally got just a small bit of closure.
I know how I felt when I heard the news Sunday night. I was relieved. I knew someone was dead, and that death is never a time for celebration, but I also knew that this wasn’t going to end any other way; that if and when we found Bin Laden we weren’t bringing him out alive.
“This is the Navy SEALs. Come out with your hands up.” It just doesn’t go down that way.
After I watched the President address the nation, I saw the video of the people in New York and D.C. celebrating. I was happy for them. I didn’t think for one minute that they were gloating. I saw emotions that had been pent up for almost ten years finally coming out. I expect that around our country that night people were cheering and crying, maybe at the same time. Because just as we all handle grief differently, we all handle closure differently. These emotions are overwhelming and we shouldn’t judge others who express them in different ways.
Those of us who rejoiced that night did so not at the death of a human being, but in the knowledge that some imperfect measure of justice had been achieved.
Those of us who reacted in a more somber fashion did so not because we regret a mass murder’s death but because we realize what a terrible waste any death is.
The first reaction isn’t un-Christian; the second isn’t un-American. Both reactions are human and understandable.
It isn’t our place to judge either one.