Tuesday, May 03, 2011

At the risk of opening myself up to huge criticism

I can't rejoice at the death of Osama bin Laden. I can't get behind the celebrations.

And I know this is unusual for me, and I almost never write about current events. It's not that I don't think about them, but so many other people write about them better than I can.

But this feels very emotional to me.

It's not that I'm opposed to capital punishment; I'm not. I do think there are things that people do that are vile enough that putting them to death is acceptable. In fact, if someone did something to my son, I would probably have to be restrained from murder.

Being pro-death penalty is not a popular viewpoint among my friends, but it is mine.

And this isn't a death penalty issue - this is war.

Osama bin Laden was a terrorist. He masterminded the tragic and horrendous deaths of thousands of innocent people. He was a popular figure, and clearly one who could both plan strategically and emotionally incite others to mass murder.

I believe he deserved to die.

It's not his death that bothers me. It's the dancing in the streets. It's the delight at an execution.

Would I have rejoiced almost a decade ago, when 9/11 was fresh and raw and everything was terrifying and it seemed like capturing/killing him was the solution to terrorism? It's hard to see myself dancing at the news of a death, but maybe then? I don't know.

Would I rejoice if I had lost friends in this war? If I were on the ground in the Middle East?

Possibly. I don't know.

It just feels wrong to me. An execution isn't winning a football game. Taking life isn't light. I don't understand the revelry.


  1. I'm with you. I was horrified by the party atmospherr at those celebrations. They struck me as vulgar and disturbing.

  2. Agreed.
    Watching the crowds converge outside the White House Sunday night made me uncomfortable.

  3. I'm inclined to agree with you. I don't think it's a step to be taken lightly, even though it was necessary. However, jubilation at another person's death is over the top. In part, I think it irks me that many of the people celebrating are so young that they don't have memories of 9/11. Ten years ago, they had book reports and science camp to worry about, not terrorism. I wonder how much of an understanding they really have?

  4. Agreed. I've basically wanted to hide these last two days so I didn't have to watch and didn't have to argue.

  5. I'm relieved to hear from you guys. I was afraid of being lambasted.

    Wendy - I was shocked. I suppose I shouldn't have been, but I was. Yes - vulgar and disturbing are perfect words.

    Dana - I know. It was like a World Cup party.

    Susan H - I hadn't thought about the age of people, actually. You know - that's an interesting thing you just brought up. The thing I feel sorry for kids about is that they've been raised in such a fearful Code Orange world. They might not have really understood when the towers fell, but they've lived through the Bush II years, the heightened security, the airport pat-downs.

    Julie - I've avoided the news clips and skipped over the joyful FB posts.

  6. I can understand people wanting to celebrate this. In many ways it's been hanging over our national psyche for years now...

    That said, I'm uncomfortable celebrating any death. Some people deserve to die... just like some teeth need to be pulled, and others need root canals... but like dental surgery, death doesn't need to be celebrated.

    Relief maybe?

  7. i saw it more as the vindication of the president that i hope is indeed forthcoming. i certainly didn't feel the need to dance in the streets like when the phillies won the series (whee!), but when i saw the news, i was...pleased. in more of a "welcome to your second term, good sir" sort of fashion, if that makes sense?

  8. I agree 100%. It's like a lot of those kids celebrating were just looking for an excuse to get out and be in front of cameras. Like being at the White House made them feel relevant somehow. We didn't just win an Olympic medal or the World Cup. We killed someone. Yes, he was a rat bastard, but he was still a human being. You don't go celebrating that with a street party.

  9. I agree with you. A lot of my friends are dancing for joy that he is dead and it just seems so morose to me. Yes, he was a terrorist. Yes, its great that he's dead. But all I can think of is - what are they going to do to us now?

  10. I think it is more a celebration of the notion that the United States is still a powerful nation capable of achieving justice. Yes, there are some who are celebrating the death - but I think, or want to think, that most are celebrating out of relief that we are not helpless in the face of this particular enemy, the first such enemy to succeed on such a large scale in this country, the first to make us truly fearful as a nation. We found a way to beat this enemy, and that is why people are celebrating.

    At least, that's what I hope.

  11. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

    You are not the only one. I was sickened at the sight.

  12. Oh certainly agreed.

    The first thing Nathan said about it was how sickened he was seeing all the "celebratory" facebook updates.

    And I'm totally with you as someone who's generally considered liberal but is also pro-death penalty.

  13. vvk - I can see celebrating relief. As you said, this has been hanging over our heads for a long time.

    Coleen - Oh, I hope this is the case. I hope this means four more years. I hope I hope.

    Luna - Yes, it could be that. They're young enough to not give it much thought, and they're in front of cameras somewhere historic.

    Jac - I know. He's gone, but there's a huge network out there. What does this mean? Scary.

    Jessica - This I can understand, and it makes a lot of sense as an explanation. I hope this is the case.

    Anonymous - This is a great quite. I'm not great at not hating, but it is true.

    frugalveganmom - I don't know many other liberals who are OK with the death penalty.

  14. I'm with you on this one. On everything. I've always said about child molesters/killers that we should just hand them over to the family and bury whatever is left. I KNOW I could kill someone who hurt my daughter. No doubt.

    I was offended too by the celebratory attitude. Am I glad he's dead? Yes. But to clap and cheer? no.

  15. After 9/11, I actively wished death on Bin Laden but I wasn't proud of that then and I am not now. I'm glad they found him, and although I wonder about the ramifications of state-sanctioned assassination, I don't regret his death one bit.

    But the celebrations are unseemly, and one of my friends posted this entirely appropriate quote on FB: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

  16. I am so so glad to read this. Reading people's responses to it really bothered me, but I couldn't find a way to say why in particular. It's just distasteful. I feel like we, as a people, should be better than that.

  17. I agree, but I am not sure where you live. I was in NY for 9/11. It was and is my home that was attacked. While I would not have celebrated in that way, I understand those who did. I don't think it was for his death, but a way to remember.

  18. I agree with you!!! While I think everyone is entitled to their own feelings, I can't get behind the idea of celebration of a death. Relief? Yes. Celebration? No.

  19. I've been a long time reader of your blog, but never commented. I'm de-lurking to say your post today struck a cord in me because I've been feeling the same things. Hovering on the line between joy and shame. Do I think he deserved to die? Yes. Will I dance in the streets over it? No. A facebook friend posted this yesterday, and I felt that it said all the things I was feeling…

    "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I refuse to rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

  20. Oops. Didn't see that someone already posted this quote!

  21. I agree. I do think something at Ground Zero might be appropriate, I heard there were flowers and papers being left there, but the partying in the streets bothers me. Mainly because it makes us look like hypocrites. When they celebrate in the streets, they are savages and dirty extremists. But when we do it, we're good patriots?

    I haven't personally looked this up (on my phone) but I heard that whole quote is not MLK's. I think the first bit was from someone else (so I heard).

    -- Lisa (from Seriously.)

  22. The dancing in the streets? Overall just terribly bad form.

    I'm with you on all counts.

  23. Yes, just ... yes. I've kept my mouth shut and closed my eyes to as much as I can these past few days. I'm Canadian. I have no right to judge America's reaction to the news. But ... is that really how you want the world to view your country? As a country of people who celebrate death? I don't care how evil he was. I don't care that he deserved to die. I cannot support the perpetuation of hate. It will never fucking end.

  24. In 2006 I lost someone very dear to me in Afganistan. He rejoined the British forces in 2000 just before 9/11 and in time for 2 tours of duty in Iraq and Afganistan. I hate the wars and the man responsible for so much death, especially David's death. My future gone in an instant. But I do not celebrate this man's death in any way I let it pass as inconsequential, a nonity if you like because to celebrate his death would be to acknowledge his life and this is something I will not do.
    This event will drive terrorists to retaliate and as David said to me when Saddam Hussien died, this isnt the end this is just going to stir up a wasps nest.
    To dance in the streets, no matter how bad this person was, is wrong and crass and as primitive and barbaric as he was. Watching people of a so called civilised nation do this turns my stomach to be honest so I dont.

  25. One of the most horrendous things I saw were comments on a friend's facebook status by people he knew who were saying that his body should be dragged through the street and that it should be put on display so that people could piss on it and spit on it. And immediately I thought of how black people's bodies were burned and dragged through the streets after they were lynched. For me, any impulse toward that type of reaction puts me on par with Bin Laden.

    I haven't been quiet about my opinion, but have mostly just said I think it is not a time for revelry. And I appreciate you saying this here. I have lost respect for people close to me who have rejoiced at this. No fireworks. No effigies. Whether or not his body was actually already buried at sea, I'm grateful that the opportunity to deface it was taken from the American public.

  26. I agree completely. Though I agree with his death, I think the massive partying and celebration made us stoop to their level. Isn't that what they did when the towers got hit? Why be the same?

    (This is coming from someone who was across the street from the towers when they got hit.)

    He deserved to die, no doubt. But I thought we were above the partying about it.

  27. Yes the partying left a bad taste in my mouth.

  28. Well said LG and everyone, I can't really add anything, just happy, not everyone is having street parties,Youall have some sense :)
    I too think hsi death is largely symbolic, a relief, closure, but I'm worried what it will stir up.

  29. I don't understand it either. I was shocked by the reaction actually. I thought it would be a sobering time. But I have also heard lots of different view points. The people celebrating are just the loudest.

  30. Totally agree and found the celebrations very uncomfortable to watch. I don't endorse what he did, but that doesn't mean I think we should come down to the same level in celebration.

    I also think it is too simplistic to assume that this means the west has 'won the war'. Yes is strikes at the heart of terrorism, but Bin Laden wasn't the head of an organised army that is now going to have itself in. Al Qaeda is more an ideology than a state and there are plenty of other redicalised people standing in the wings. If anything, this display of public adulation to the death is likely to inflame and increase support for AQ. Short sighted.

  31. I'm a little late to the party (pun intended) but I completely agree. I felt exactly the same way and was actually quite horrified at the reaction.

  32. I seriously deleted people from my facebook when I saw some of their posts. I had no idea they were so hateful. And I do not want hate in my life.


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