When I surfed to the Yahoo! homepage today, this is the title that greeted me: “Osama bin Laden killed in raid.” And underneath that story was a link to another story with photos of Americans celebrating.
It made me want to cry. I very nearly did.
Something about celebrating the death of another person seems fundamentally wrong to me.
If anyone remembers the news story from 2009 of the Lockerbie bomber being released to return home to Libya and people of his country celebrating the deaths of the people he killed: how did you react? If you are a human being with any kind of heart, you reacted with disgust. Disgust that people could take pleasure in the deaths of others. Disgust that those deaths could be celebrated and rejoiced in.
Yet today, we are doing the same thing. I couldn’t look at the photos of people happily rejoicing in the streets that Osama bin Laden is dead. They made me sick. Those people who claim to be of the greatest country in the world, who claim to be “better” than the terrorists, are publicly demonstrating their happiness over the death of a person. Those people are taking pleasure in the death of a person.
I don’t care how “evil” a person is, it does not give us the right to rejoice in his death. Am I glad that bin Laden is no longer able to hurt other people? Yes, I am, I am happy that he can’t cause any more harm. But that is not the same as being happy that he is dead. He was still a human being, and still had a human soul, however blackened it may or may not have been. As Pamela Gerloff said in her article in the Huffington Post: “Regardless of the perceived degree of ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in any of us, we are all, each of us, human. To celebrate the killing of a life, any life, is a failure to honor life’s inherent sanctity.”
How can any person possibly feel good about celebrating the death of another person? Do those feelings not put you on the same level as the terrorists, who rejoiced when the towers fell and two thousand people died? Does the rejoicing in the death of a person not only create more animosity between nations and people, does it not create more insecurity and violence, rather than the cessation of violence? Think of it like one large gang war, played out on a worldwide scale. Killing one gang’s leader does not end the hostility; rather it strengthens the hostility and the hatred and creates an increase in violence.
A better way to remember this day is not to celebrate a man’s death, not to give in to the feelings of revenge. Instead, honor those who lost their lives tragically on 9/11. Remember a sense of national unity and connection to the other people in your country and your life, and be happy that the people you care about are still alive. Honor the people who serve in our military, because they do their best to protect the rest of us and give their lives to protect their people and their country.
Rejoice in life. But please, do not rejoice in the death of another human being.
UPDATE: Here’s a nice post from a UU-centered blog, The Wonderment, by Naomi King expressing a similar opinion. I figure the more articles there are supporting this view, the more people will read and stop to think about their reaction to the news. My favorite line from this post: “We diminish the lives of those who have died from hatred and violence when we respond with hatred and violence – and that is what exultation over the death of an ‘enemy’ is.“
UPDATE 2: A good blog post from Witch, Please! blog author. The video is long but worth watching. “The people gathered to dance in front of the White House tonight look eerily similar to those who celebrated the 9/11 attacks.”
UPDATE 3: An article from the PNC-Minnesota Bureau about the Pagan reaction to the news. It gives a good round-up of various Pagan perspectives about the death of bin Laden.
UPDATE 5/5/11: Just found Starhawk’s short article. Short, but it makes you think, and her words are very poetic.