Monday morning I was awash in many conflicting feelings. To try to sort them out, I wrote about it. My original intention was to post my sorting out of feelings in a blog, but I was afraid. My initial thoughts were personal, and I try not to convey personal thoughts ever. I prefer to keep them to myself. And in this instance, I’m glad I did. Because if I hadn’t, I would not be rewriting what I originally intended to post (although I’m still posting my personal thoughts, they’re a bit less muddled).
When I awoke Monday morning, I had no idea that I would discover that “the greatest game of hide and seek in the world” was finally over. It was totally unexpected. Osama bin Laden was finally dead.
And to my surprise, I went through a multitude of feelings—surprise, relief, and sadness. I would love to say that I was happy, but that was not a feeling I experienced. Was I glad the number one terrorist was dead? Undoubtedly. Did that equate to happiness? Not at all.
Instead, I contemplated what comes next. Because I was in eighth grade studying religion at St. Pat’s in White Lake when we first heard two planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001—a month before my class was supposed to visit Washington D.C. At that time, I didn’t even know what the World Trade Center was. But in the coming weeks and months, I learned. And the world was forever changed.
I remember the pain, the grief, the sorrow. I remember the anger, the helplessness. I remember wanting retribution, revenge—at the age of 13.
At the age of 22, I’m glad and relieved the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks is dead. We got him as promised. Yet, at the same time, I’m sad. Perhaps because I know the death of bin Laden does not mean this is the end. I’m sure there are other extremists willing to take up his cause. He did not carry out the 9/11 attacks singlehandedly.
When I got to work to Monday morning, I did my usual routine of checking out the New York Times and USA Today, and automatically I went right to the articles on bin Laden—how they found him and were able to kill him and buried him at sea. I then read an article about the joy and jubilation seen around the country—in particular in New York and in front of the White House.
And this caused me to feel the most confusing feelings. For some reason, watching a video of people dancing in the streets, waving flags, and chanting U-S-A over the death of one man—albeit an evil one—made me feel inexplicably sad. It immediately reminded me of a video CNN had shown of Palestinians dancing in the streets after news of the World Trade Center attack reached them. How they joyously celebrated the deaths of 3,000 innocent human beings—which to me represented extreme hatred.
Perhaps, that’s why I feel sad. The extreme hatred on both sides that promises these differences will not be resolved quickly—if ever. And I’m not saying we, Americans, have no reason to hate bin Laden. I have no problem with him being shot and killed, whether he was unarmed or not. A large part of me also feels he forfeited his right to have his Islamic burial traditions acknowledged if that was indeed one of the reasons they buried him so quickly at sea. Those who died in the attacks had no such courtesy bestowed upon them.
I honestly feel the world is better off without him. That in some way justice has been served.
But on the other hand, I feel celebrating, laughing and smiling in the streets is a bit wrong. And I’m not sure why.
I chatted with a friend who is studying at Georgetown asking him how the atmosphere in D.C. is. He told me it was crazy, patriotic. He stopped studying for his midterm to rush the 2.1 miles to the White House and join in the celebration Sunday night. I heard of people doing likewise in streets of New York and around college campuses around the country.
And for once, I’m glad I wasn’t on a college campus or in an area to feel tempted to take part in such a celebration. Normally, I love that sort of thing—the patriotism, the solidarity—people coming together to express pride in our country.
But hearing that bin Laden was dead didn’t inspire those same patriotic feelings or the need to shout U-S-A at the top of my lungs. Instead, it inspired relief and reflection, contemplation and conflicting emotions.
Many of my friends updated their Facebook statuses to reflect their joy at bin Laden’s death. And I don’t fault them. I share their sentiments of “ding dong the witch is dead.” Some even made me smile and inwardly cheer (unfortunately I can’t repost here due to some profane language, but to get the main gist listen to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.”)
However, a couple of my friends from Notre Dame summed up my confused feelings the best: “Definitely relieved but riotous celebration seems malapropos” or “ND students celebrating the death of a man. War criminal or not that’s a bit…off.”
After much thought all day, two of my other friends each reposted a quote (originally a Penn State graduate’s status) that summed up exactly what I was feeling.
“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.’ –Martin Luther King Jr.”
I feel relief and satisfaction over bin Laden’s death, but I won’t rejoice in it. Because as King said “returning hate for hate multiples hate.” And riotous celebrations in the street to me symbolizes fueling that hate. Instead, I will save dancing in the streets for a time of true rejoicing—when the War on Terror is finally over. If that day ever comes.