Saturday, May 14, 2011

Death of a terrorist-to celebrate or not to celebrate?

I was in the SSU Library on the evening of May 1 when I first heard the news that American forces had killed Osama bin Laden. Being from a progressive family that condemns war and violence, my reaction was not one of celebration, but of amazement and of uncertainty regarding the impact of bin Laden's death on the War on Terror. I know that apart from short-term backlash from terrorists, bin Laden's death and its long-term consequences are obviously good news, and bin Laden definitely deserved to be brought to justice after 9/11 and all the other mass murders he is responsible for. However, I personally feel that celebrating his death kind of brings the US down to his level (considering the way those who supported his actions celebrated on 9/11).

I realize many think there is no good reason not to celebrate and that some (such as President Obama) even think that those who don't like that bin Laden was killed should have their heads examined. Many of those who have celebrated are close to my age and thus have spent half their lives fearing terrorism, so in a way it offers some relief. My parents and I even have friends in New York who are just as progressive as we are, but as residents of the city hardest hit by 9/11, their gut reaction was to celebrate and not hold back on a moral basis. But before taking such a position it is important to put things in perspective. For instance, there are politicians and other officials in our own country who have orchestrated policies that have taken many more lives than bin Laden ever did, and yet most have not received any sort of criminal punishment. And since bin Laden was unarmed (as described here), I think there was less justification for killing him than there would have otherwise been, though the fact that capturing and trying him would have been a nightmare makes me more ambivalent on this issue. But as awful a person as bin Laden was, celebrating someone's killing (regardless of what it achieves) felt wrong, especially considering others were killed and that children were there. I concur with the sentiments in this article, which draws a comparison to the Passover Seder practice of dripping wine when mentioning the Ten Plagues to avoid celebrating the disasters that befell the Egyptian oppressors in the story of Exodus.

So yeah, the reaction to bin Laden's death is perfectly understandable, given all the circumstances. But as explained in this article, it does not make America great, and celebrating someone being killed should not be one of America's values, no matter how awful the person who died was.

No comments:

Post a Comment