May 2, 2011

Americans Rejoice at News of Bin Laden's Death

Osama bin Laded deadMedia of all forms is abuzz with news that Osama bin Laden was killed. It was a big story, so lots of coverage is understandable. As you can see in the screenshot to the right, CNN went with the tagline, "Terrorist leader's body buried at sea; Americans rejoice." Americans rejoice? Absolutely. If you spend any time on Facebook or Twitter today, you saw that this description was perfectly accurate.

It is clear that bin Laden was a bad guy, at least from the perspective of most in the U.S. Once al Qaeda was defined as the enemy, it is natural that bin Laden would be demonized. By ordering an action that resulted in the death of so many civilians, bin Laden earned our wrath.

Having said that, "rejoicing" at his death is not for me. It is not simply that many American presidents have committed acts which the rest of the world perceived as war crimes, torture, or terrorism. And it is not a matter of arguing that "terrorism" will necessarily describe virtually any instance of a tiny force attacking a massive one. No, I think it is my general hesitation with the concept of revenge.

I oppose the death penalty on many grounds. It is not an effective deterrent, and there is evidence that it contributes more to the problem of violence. But the idea of celebrating someone's death - no matter how awful the individual may have been - seems absurd to me. Perhaps the U.S. will be safer without bin Laden. Even so, I cannot fathom how celebrating it is supposed to make us any safer or feel better about the losses of 9/11.

Members of al Qaeda undoubtedly cheered when the towers went down. I have no desire to be more like them.

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