I Could Not Celebrate: So Kill Me
I know that Osama bin Laden is dead.
I was awake the other night when the announcement was made.
I heard President Obama’s speech and I got this weird feeling that the speech had been written for years and, like a dark Mad Lib, there were just a few holes left for the particulars to be filled in: a few nouns, a few verbs.
Yesterday morning I woke up and I saw all kinds of disturbing images peppering the internet: People screaming at a Phillies game; folks gathered in the streets of Washington, DC and at Ground Zero dancing and singing; Photoshopped pictures of Osama’s head being held by Lady Liberty. Pithy signs.
I felt a little squirmy.
This past Sunday we gathered for YomHashoah, a day commemorating the six million Jews (and others) who were murdered in the Holocaust. Obviously, Osama bin Laden wasn’t a leader who shared our western worldview, I know that. I have a friend who said: “Celebration in the streets is really unimportant either way in the great scheme of things. There are a select few historical figures whose demise is truly wonderful news for the world, and this is one of them — a man whose very existence was a threat to civilization. Ding, dong, the mass-murderer is dead.”
I guess I’m uncomfortable celebrating another person’s murder.
Aren’t we taught not to be joyful when blood is shed?
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice…” (24:17).
So what are we doing?
I wish that in his speech Obama had thought to caution Americans, to remind Americans that this is a time to act with discretion and with civility. Because the world is watching us. All this partying seems not to be very productive. More likely, it will simply add fuel to the fire. And it certainly will not do anything to end the “War on Terror” when many Americans look like college students on Spring Break: that is, students behaving badly.
I know that Al-Quaeda is responsible for the attacks on our own soil and so many other atrocities abroad. Still, all the screaming and celebration and nationalistic dogma is unsettling. I’ll leave you all with a quote from Mark Twain:
I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.
There is a difference about feeling quietly content about a desired result – the death of a person who openly declared war on another country and its people – and making a choice to bombard people with inflammatory images and mob scenes where groupthink is at play.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that Bin Laden was a good man. He was, in fact, and without a doubt a terrible, terrible person. He was like Hitler, okay. Evil. But the Torah teaches us that it is not right to celebrate when someone else is killed, even if they are our enemies. If you just celebrated Passover you should have read this in your Haggadah. As I understand it, this is why we take drops of wine out of our glasses as we read the ten plagues. This is why the angels were rebuked by G-d for celebrating too much as the Egyptians drowned when the Jews crossed the River and made it to the other side. We can be quietly pleased. We can be grateful. We can be respectful of all those who have died as a result of bin Laden’s horrible crimes against humanity. But “partying” when there have been murders committed, on any side, is just another evil.
For those of you who watch the dramatic series Dexter, you know that Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department who moonlights as a serial killer. All I know is that Dexter would have handled things a long time ago. Quietly. Discreetly. And he wouldn’t have been celebrating. There is a kind of sanctity to his bloody ritual.
To me, Monday was a little too much like Lord of the Flies.
I got lambasted on my Facebook page yesterday.
It’s okay. I can take it, and I know that others were a little uncomfortable with all the celebration today, too.
One last thing: Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violemce, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction… The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into a dark abyss of annihilation. -Strength To Love, 1963.
And this is just another of the zillions of reasons I love our county.
I can say my peace and have faith that no-one will haul me or my loved ones off in the morning to be tortured or raped or murdered.
Meanwhile how should teachers handle Osama bin Laden’s death? What kinds of statements would you want teachers to make or not make to their students?
51 thoughts on “I Could Not Celebrate: So Kill Me”
Amen to the words of being humble! Thank you America for a bit of justice, but do not think this death solves all the answers of world wide chaos. As you awake each morning, be grateful for what you have and the freedom you are granted on a daily basis. Sometimes we need to realize there are two sides to every story and perhaps the side we want isn’t totally the right one. Who – as an individual – gives us the right to preach the right and wrong in all of life and its wonders?
Behind you 100%!! I was sickened to watch USA citizens dancing and celebrating in the streets….how quickly we revert back to primal packs of animals. I want no part of this celebration….MLK spoke so wisely so many decades ago….yet we never seem to learn!!!
The Old Testament is full of stories of how God assisted and empowered the children of Israel to slayeth mine or thine enemies (murder, actually) and they celebrated a great deal when the slaughter was over. If your child had been killed,would you feel the same way?
I feel the same as you Renee. I had this conversation with my mom last night. You are not alone in your thoughts on this one! I am standing beside you with the same thoughts and feelings.
Oh. boy RASJ, you are making it so I just can’t bite my tongue.
Excuse uncharacteristic typos, I am zipping this out as quickly as I can.
1. The fact is that most mature people are *not* taking part in the celebrations that are making you soooo sick. There are 300 million of us, and maybe a few thousand real revelers. By now people should be able to tell the difference between what’s made for TV and what’s outside their windows. Are there any celebrations outside your window? How about yours? and yours? I haven’t seen any, anywhere except on TV. TV shows us the things that get us to watch TV and then argue about it. Or is that news to anyone?
2. That said, there was certainly some celebrating, no argument. I saw the baseball game–those people had all just gotten the news on their phones, and that was their instant emotional reaction. What sickening, un-American people, right? Yuck, blech. Then they went home. They didn’t drag burning bodies through the street and hang them from bridges, shoot guns in the air, rape 60 Minutes reporters in the town square, threaten death to the remaining “enemy” population, turn over cars, or throw stones. They just went overboard being happy about something that is absolutely a happy occasion.
Do I think the excessive partying is silly? Of course. Do I think it’s horrible? Not at all. Just happy people celebrating indisputable justice and closure of a terrible chapter in a silly, excessive way.
3. The argument many people have made that this won’t stop or change the threat of terrorism is just meaningless and off the topic. It stopped a terrorist. A really big one (literally and figuratively). An animal who, with a proud smile, orchestrated the killing of more than 3,000 men, women and children of all walks of life in one busy day, and many more–including uncountable numbers of his own people–on his days off. The goal was never to stop terrorism, but it’s a step in the right reaction.
4. Before anyone quotes handy proverbs, holds up their bible of choice or cites fictional TV shows and classic American literature, read the Koran. If you don’t have time to read the Koran, read “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris. If you don’t have time to read “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris, just read the chapter *about* the Koran. Factual stuff… direct quotes… not opinon. Get a better and (forgive me) less naiive view of the *real* word we are living in.
We are dealing with people who, given the chance, would kill you and your family (and not gracefully like on HBO) as quickly and casually as they eat breakfast. Or perhaps they’d bury you up to your neck and stone your head, which would be a shame because you’re a nice-looking lady. These are people whose scriptures explicitly and repeatedly instruct them to convert the outside world or destroy everyone in it. That should help focus your anger and queasy feelings in the right direction.
By contrast, we killed a mass murderer (who was bravely using his wife and anonother woman as shields) then still managed to find it in us to respect his religion in disposing of his body. Ever see what they do with the bodies of their “enemies” (and friends) over there?
Since we’re using convenient quotes, I’ll toss out Solomon’s “with all they getting, get understanding.”
5. If you don’t have time to do any of that, travel all over the world. Doing so for 20 years has given me a *very* different perspective on what else is out there. If you haven’t traveled extensively to non-tourist destinations, you don’t have the beginning of a clue of how extraordinary our country and its people are (don’t jump on my sentence structure). Not perfect by any means, but for sure as good as it gets. That’s why so many people in the world do so much to find a way to get here.
If you don’t buy that, spend some time with the still-living holocaust survivors in my family, or any of the other few remaining ones. Or spend time with anyone who’s lost a relative to terrorism, particularly in the past ten years. Get over your queasiness about excessive end-zone celebrations. Let it go.
RASJ, as you would say, “you know I love ya’.” But this is the wrong time and reason to be criticizing our country. No one loves and appreciates our freedoms and respects rights more than I do, but there are times when it is just prudent to resist the urge to turn our criticisms inward, even though you have every right.
I think – perhaps – we are arguing about nothing. I agree that bin Laden was terrible. I agree with you. And, as you suggest, I have not heard about any violent conflicts as a result of the partying. I agree that the United States stopped a huge terrorist who needed to be stopped, and I am glad of it. And I am proud of the men and women who managed to do it.
I have read parts of the Quaran, and – to me – it feels like every other religious doctrine. It is filled with parables and stories. I haven’t read the book to which you refer, but maybe you’ll let me borrow it. You know I love to read and have an open mind.
I also agree that bin Laden hated the West, particularly the United States and was a huge figure-head for the people who followed his lead. His death was necessary. I am not arguing that we he should have been left to his own devices. He needed to be located and killed.
Like you, I have done some traveling and each time I come home thinking – like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – “There’s no place like home,” but more specifically, “There is no place like the United States. You make it sound like I’ve only been to Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya… Bermuda, Bahamas… which is simply not the case, and you know it. Agreed, we are bot a perfect people, but our democracy is pretty good.
I have friends who have children who have been fighting in this war since 2001, deployed 3 times. I know people who have sons and daughters there now. I support the troops. I really do. I can understand that for the survivors of family members killed on 9/11, this creates a kind of “justice moment.” That the U.S. did not stop looking for justice. That our country is strong and powerful and able to get the job done.
I guess I was looking at these IMAGES of people popping bottles of beer, stuff on YouTube that people had posted (which since, incidentally, has been taken down) and some other images which I included in this entry, and I kept thinking, “This is what makes people hate us!” We are rude. Why can’t we act with dignity? Why do people have to scream into cameras? “Yeah! Fuck Osama! Go U.S.A.!” We make generalizations about entire groups of people based on the actions of few. (And here, I am speaking of how Muslims have been lumped together into Al-Quaeda.)
If people in this country spent as much time informing themselves about the nuances of this conflict rather than making inflammatory signs and images and posting them on Facebook, we’d be a much more well-informed, well-respected country.
And, I was not questioning our country. I praised our country. I was questioning the celebration of a murder. I don’t care who it is. I understand sometimes that force must be used – as Malcolm X said, “by any means necessary,” but the theatrics felt uncomfortable to me as a citizen.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m still allowed to feel what I feel.
And I’m pretty sure that we can agree to disagree and still be friends.
If we are no longer friends, I will remind you that I was the last one to win at Bananagrams. And you will have to live with that.
My wife told me I was too long-winded. So,
1. Starting at the end, of course you are allowed to think and feel however you wish, as am I. I don’t think I said or suggested otherwise.
2. Of course we’re still friends. Love, hugs and peace.
2. Actually I’m not sure we agree as much as you are saying. But that’s OK.
3. I think one huge problem is the use of the word “murder” to describe the killing of Bin Laden. Murder, to me, means something very different, and that skews the whole story and discourse. If someone comes into your house and harms your family, and you shoot him dead, are you a murderer?
This was–and I hope no one argues this–justice being served.
Though let’s not forget that he would have been captured if possible (conspiracy theorists, please don’t argue this… it would have been an even greater victory to bring him back alive, treat him with civility as only we would have, and kill him later).
PS: I never accused you of being Bahamian. It was a general statement–not pointed at you–about understanding the world first-hand. Until one has been in central China, Ho Chi Minh, or any number of worse places (including the Paris Metro), one only knows what he or she reads or watches on the “news.” Now enjoy your drink with an umbrella in it. 🙂
If someone comes into your house with the intention to harm your family, you have the right to defend yourself. Absolutely.
But if you kill that person, you still have blood on your hands.
A court would never find your guilty of the crime. It is unlikely that you would do any time in prison, but you would have taken another person’s life.
I can agree that sometimes someone is so evil, we have to take a life to save many others; but at the same time, I am cognizant of the fact that this is the same argument that folks use to justify killing doctors who are trying to ensure safe, legal abortions to female patients. People say these doctors are monsters: (“Kill the doctor; save innocent babies’ lives.) It’s a sticky wicket. To me, murder is murder. I won’t celebrate it.
And, yes, I would have liked to bring him back alive, give him a trial, let him rot in prison for a while where the inmates could have their way with him.
Let’s settle this over a nice game of Scrabble.
So let me get this straight. You said that “murder is murder,” and thereby suggested that any form of killing is still tantamount to murder.
You are, by extension and unavoidably, saying that killing that criminal in your home, or Osama Bin Laden, or for that matter Hitler, carries *precisely* the same moral and philosophical weight and burden as the deeds of Charles Manson, or Lee Harvey Oswald, or your everyday drive-by shooter. You will of course deny that and say I am twisting your words, but that is exactly what you said.
Reading that, I don’t know what else I can possibly say. It’s times like these that nothing fits better than the dreaded “OMFG”
We can still settle it over Scrabble, but OMFG.
Michael, if you plan to kill someone and then you follow through with it, it is absolutely murder.
You can justify it from here until the end of time, but it is what it is.
We can find reasons to get behind these types of decisions, but we should not celebrate them.
I think the president’s decision to use the SEALs and his late-night announcement were appropriate. He gave us the best information he had at the time. I think the reactions of certain individuals were not appropriate. I will say it again. The world is watching us.
Renee, I just don’t know what to say to that, I can only hope you don’t really believe what you are saying.
As I said, am incredulous at some of the stuff I am reading here (not just your comments), and it scares and saddens me to know how some people feel, and to see the lack of understanding of what is really happening in the world and why.
Maybe Osama didn’t get enough hugs when he was a child.
I think at this point I have to follow the famous motherly advice of keeping my mouth shut unless I have something nice to say. Good luck to us all.
Peace, love, and happiness.
Hi Renee, I am with you! I tried to post the same MLK quote to your FB page comments, but it wouldn’t take it for some reason.
Ironically, a good and trusted friend sente a link to an article claiming that their research showed it was NOT an actual MLK quote 🙁 I don’thave the means to verify either way right mow.
At any rate, the quote is staying on my page either way…. I think we need much more light and love being projected into the world… Doesn’t matter so much who crafted yhat set of words as much as the profound abity it hasto express what people want to say! I will correct the reference to MLK if need be…
I will continue to try and hold aloft a light of truth and love amidst the darkness of hate and fear in the world. ( that is written by ME!)
I’m pretty sure I have a good quote. I have a link to a reputable source. 😉
I’m uncomfortable with the celebrations to a certain extent. I love the Mark Twain quote. Vigils and remembrance for those who have been lost are completely appropriate at this time.
As to your question. This is a historic event and should be discussed in History, Social Studies, Government and perhaps religious courses. I do not think that educational forums are a place to celebrate this event. I’d be curious to hear what schools are doing. Study and learn from our past so bad things do not happen in the future.
P.S. I don’t think you were criticizing our country. You have strong faith and a good heart. Sometimes people behave in ways that you will not and in your faith and goodness you speak out. I am glad that you do because this is EXACTLY what makes US great.
Thanks. We are clearly in the minority in this forum but fortunately not so much in the real world. Time for me to bow out. I tried! 🙂
@Michael….thank you for resisting the urge to bite your tongue! Agree 100%
And thanks to you for having my back! This is a tough crowd 😉
I am right there with you and Rachel. I have traveled extensively. Not only to Europe, but Asia and the Mid-East, as well. I was living in Israel during the first Gulf War, and two years ago I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia. I have loved every experience, and still love living in the USA.
I will not openly celebrate, but I will not be sad.
Sorry, my “thank you note” above was intended for Rachel and Larisa, I just clicked the wrong reply link (no offense, isrbrown)
Hitler, Mussolini, Torquemada. Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Menghistu, Pinochet, and a whole host of other gentlemen would be very appreciative of our love and understanding, and our concern for their buddy Osama. I suspect the tens or hundreds of millions these chaps murdered would be very ashamed and critical of our despicable happiness at the deaths of their executioners.
I’m all for light and love, wish there were no violence, and am very saddened by the state of the world. But the reality is what it is. Light and love make for poor armor against nail bombs, machetes, biological weapons and the unstoppable, undeniable determination of people to annihilate us purely because we don’t see things their way.
Love your brother, love your sister, love your children and friends. Even love your civilized political opponents. Love me, I’m really lovable. But don’t love people who literally want to cut your loving head off. It simply doesn’t work and we will keep learning the hard way as our loved ones get slaughtered.
Did I say to love the guy? Where did I say that? I said I was uncomfortable with the celebration around his death. Sheesh.
I was surprised that you would refer to Osama Bin Laden as a leader. You said: “Obviously, Osama bin Laden wasn’t a leader who shared our western worldview.”, and on your Facebook page you wrote: “He wasn’t my favorite leader, but it feels odd to celebrate his murder.”
George W. Bush was not my favorite Leader, but I wish him a long, happy, healthy life. Osama bin Laden was NOT a leader. He was a terrorist. The people that “loved” him were the same people that hijacked 4 American Airplanes and took over 3000 lives, including their own.
It is not surprising that most Americans are not saddened by his death. No, the death of Osama bin Laden will not bring an end to terror, but it might bring justice (though, probably not closure) to those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.
I do not think we should be mourning the death of this man. We should save our tears for those who lost their lives on 9/11, and in the wars that followed. We should weep for the soldiers and innocent civilians who have been killed and wounded. We should thank the men and women of our military who are still risking their lives every day to protect our Freedoms, and be grateful to them and to our President for carrying out the successful mission of ridding the world of this terrorist.
The say people react in different ways. Some will mourn, some will reflect, some will rejoice in the streets in a way to bond with their friends and neighbors in a form of patriotic unity. I did not celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, but I can not say it didn’t make me a little happy.
Couldn’t agree more. And beautifully written.
Couldn’t agree more. Celebrating any death is a bad idea. And I fail to see how this man’s death suddenly makes us safe again.
The “War on Terror” will not end here. And if people feel “A little safer, well… they are misguided. Sadly, I imagine the violence will begin again. And soon.
I am grateful for the opportunity to read such a variety of responses, and thank those who shared for helping me to grow a more mature and well rounded understanding of a situation that defied understanding!
Quite a loaded discussion. I agree with you, Renee, 100%. I had spent the day feeling oddly unsettled in my inability to rejoice in the murder, and even more uncomfortable with how I would address the issue with my children. When a friend posted the (allegedly) MLK post, I felt as though a ray of sunshine had descended and helped me to not only understand, but feel proud of my lack of joy.
HOWEVER, I am grateful for the posts on this blog for having shared different points of view, especially Michael, and helping me to have a more mature and well rounded view of, not the murder, but of a complex, worldwide “way of life”. This isn’t an us vs. them. This is a web of complex views and understandings, none of which will change easily. We all believe we are “right”, and therefore our beliefs are “truth”.
I consider myself blessed to be surrounded by friend and family who share open minded views of human nature, and who share my inability to find joy in a horrific situation. But I also know that this is my own particular truth, and that I was lucky to be born into an area (both geographically and spiritually) that allowed me to grow with compassion and empathy.
Such a loaded topic…..
Thanks, Jenn. I wrote this on Sunday night – but I sat on it. Partly because I wanted my former student to have her post run as planned – and partly because I wanted to see if my feelings changed during the next day. I posted something on Facebook and got pretty lambasted.
Michael is really smart.
He is truly someone whose opinion I respect – not just on this, but on a number of subjects.
I see how polarizing this topic is, and I started wondering how will teachers talk about this event in their classrooms. My son came home and said they didn’t talk about it at all in his social studies class. But maybe 6th grade is too young. The talk of murder scared him. A lot. I do hope teachers at the high school level and college level take some time off from their regularly scheduled curriculum to talk to students about the events over the last few days.
We like to believe we have all the facts. And I really hope that we are being given all the truth. I don’t think the American public can stand being lied to by a president again.
To answer your questions:
Elementary Schools: Say nothing. If a student asks about it, tell them the truth, that the man who was behind the 9/11 attacks was killed in a military action.
Middle Schools: Maybe a quick discussion along the same lines of what an elementary school teacher should say.
High Schools: Hold an intelligent debate if, and only if, your students can handle it. If they are dancing in the halls, lambaste them for their stupidity and explain to them why they are being stupid.
College: Obviously college students are adults and can handle the discussion. I say use this opportunity to hold a discussion and debate both sides of the issue.
Renee, You present such a balanced and thoughtful view of the situation. I really sat up and took pause when you reminded me that the rest of the world is watching our reaction.
One thing though, apparently the Martin Luther King quote is not authentic. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/05/out-of-osamas-death-a-fake-quotation-is-born/238220/.
Jeri: Thank you for your kind words. I got the quote from
http://www.mlkonline.net/quotes.html I think that is a fairly reputable site.
I’m with you on this one, Renée…
I felt a little squirmy, too. I kept thinking that all our Americans needed were guns to shoot into the air and then we would be no different in our celebrations. He’s dead. Leave it at that. The irony, of course, is that while we rejoice, so are his people since he’s now a martyr in the arms of virgins. I think including these quotes in a lesson would be good for a starter discussion on this. You should submit this post to Blogher.com
When I clicked this link I had a feeling that I would end up disagreeing with you in some way. I don’t think I do. I felt pretty unmoved when I first heard the news. Bin Laden was dead. Brought to justice is a fitting description of that. I thought of the forces on the ground and was happy they did not suffer a loss.
I turned on the news and saw the celebrants. I had an unpleasant feeling too. I thought of the Scriptures and wondered how I should react. Just me. What was the right thing for me to feel and do. The love your enemies part still makes my head twist.
Then I went back to work because my life is no different today than it was before Sunday.
Do you think it is a writer thing? Do we just think too much? Over-think? Hmmm.
I wanted to come back and link this blog post written by Christian musician Justin McRoberts. He says:
Here’s the entire post, in context: http://www.justinmcroberts.com/blog/2011/05/the-death-of-osama-bin-ladin/
The above quote just spoke to me loudest.
Yes, that is a great short blog. “Every death is a reminder of brokenness.” Maybe that is what I felt.
And, as Clay said above, then I went on with the day.
Which is, perhaps, the saddest thing of all. Because nothing has really changed at all. 🙁
~~~Another thought provoking blog, Renee.
I agree with you.
I’m glad he’s dead. He was an evil man…..but celebrating?
I really didn’t get it…..You know?
btw, Excellent verses.
My good night to all… sleep well, and when we wake up, I do hope we all smell the coffee ;).
Well said. I agree with you wholeheartedly. While I’m not going to mourn his passing, it does seem more than a bit distasteful to be celebrating his death as if your team won the championship.
As to justice being served, maybe nine years ago it would have been, this feels more like revenge.
And since we are all sharing quotes I found this one fitting.
I, too, was uncomfortable in celebrating. Why on earth we want to celebrate? If something bad happens today or tomorrow, blame it the US.
Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity.
Sadness…for so much loss of life is what I felt when I learned of OBL’s death. Not celebration. My first thought was simply karma…’what goes around comes around’. Sometimes taking the Eastern philosophy is the best. He had it coming. I wonder how many of those college students in front of the WH were simply bandwagoning? How many of them protest the war? Lord of the Flies.. couldn’t have said it better myself.
You are a wise woman. Will you be my friend?
Wait a minute. You already are.
Hi Renee! I’ve been following your blog for a month or so, and I’ve been enjoying it! This post, however, really helped me put words to the unease I also felt about the celebrations I saw surrounding Osama’s death. Keep up the good work 🙂
Thank you for your kind words. I got a lot of flack that day, but I wrote from my heart.
Thanks for the post.
Nice to meet you.
Sent from RASJ’s iPhone
Wanna read my blog?
A little late, but here is another point of view from an article on npr.org.