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.
My kids are still little, and don’t watch much television, so thankfully they have not seen, and I have not had to explain to them, the events of the past few days. The impact that it has had on their lives is more due to the fact that the things I am seeing in the news and hearing on the radio are definitely affecting my mood, and not in the positive way it seems to be affecting everyone else.
People are celebrating – rejoicing even – in the streets because of Osama bin Laden’s assassination. Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s done some pretty awful things and is as close to pure evil as they come. I am not mourning his loss in any way. But to rejoice in the death of another human being, no matter how well-deserved you might believe that death to be, seems a bit much to me. Some people say they feel safer now that he’s gone, which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Some people feel a degree of closure now that he is gone, and I can understand that. Other people may feel that justice has been served, and though I’m not a fan of revenge as a motivating factor, I think maybe this is what had to happen. But even if you think bin Laden got what he deserved, I still cannot understand for the life of me how people can be so over the moon about it.
For one thing, it wasn’t just him, alone, one man, who has perpetrated all the destructive and murderous acts of Al Qaeda. It was a whole team of people who have been carefully trained and are willing to risk their lives – in fact, they welcome the opportunity to risk their lives – in the furtherance of their beliefs. It’s not like now that bin Laden is gone they are going to leave the camps and start new lives as computer programmers or cashiers at McDonalds in Kabul. They are going to keep going on doing what they were doing, perhaps with more rigor than before. Now bin Laden is not just a leader, he’s a martyr.
Mostly, I am thinking about the collateral damage. I think about the Afghani and Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives during our mission to search and destroy bin Laden. Even if you think his death is cause for happiness, it seems a little myopic to just ignore all those other people who were just as innocent as the victims of 9/11, who lost their lives simply because they lived in proximity to where we thought bin Laden was hiding. They weren’t asking for it, they weren’t plotting to kill Americans, they were going to work and raising their kids and cooking their dinners and hanging out with their friends, just like you and me. He may have masterminded a mass murder like the world has never seen, but that is not enough to make me forget the devastation that has been caused in the name of seeking him out and bringing him to justice. Maybe it’s just me, but it saddens me that so many people both here and over there had to lose their lives, their families, their homes, their loved ones, their health, and I cannot find any joy in that at all.
I kept thinking yesterday of a TedX video that I saw some time ago, and I think it is especially relevant today. It’s twenty minutes long, but it is worth every second. Please, watch it: