Osama bin Laden- Alive in Death

Everyone is right, and everyone is wrong.

Perhaps that’s why responses to the death of Osama bin Laden have been hard to define. Unlike the universal grief, anger and fear that Americans felt on September 11th, today, we have been all over the emotional map. Ironically, bin Laden has been more ‘alive’  in our minds in the last 48 hours than he’s been in all the years he’s been in hiding.


Social networking sites often offer more insight into public sentiment than formal news outlets, and today was no exception. After observing Twitter and Facebook throughout the day, 4 distinct positions emerged:

1. Celebration:

Even within the positions themselves, there was a broad spectrum.  Celebratory responses ranged from sober congratulations to service men and women on a job completed to drunken, chaotic revelry on college campuses.

These responses made many feel uneasy; they could understand relief, even pride and patriotism, but outright Team America, Toby Keith, boot-in-your-ass attitudes just made their stomaches turn.  One message board was filled with comments from coeds boasting about the size of the crowds at their respective campus ‘festivities’ and claiming theirs was ‘the best’.

But however distasteful it may seem, celebrating the death of someone that many felt took their loved ones from them in the Twin Towers, or deprived them of years with their military spouses and sons, was their right.

2. Respectful regret:

Again, these reactions ranged from those who felt a death was unfortunate but necessary, to those who all but equated the American troops with Al-Quaeda itself.

The words of Dr. King were quoted and re-quoted all day long: “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.”  The Vatican emphasized that this was not a time not for jubilation, but for contemplation.  Many remarked that we’ve carried rage towards and fear of this man for so long, that, by gleefully relishing in his demise, we’ve become the monsters we knew his organization to be.

Taking things further, others remained coolly detached and almost waxed poetic with platitudes about  ‘2 wrongs not making a right’. Some went so far as to condemn the military personnel as “just as bad as he [bin Laden] was.”

3. Disbelief:

These feelings were more sparse, but a respectable portion of the populace doesn’t believe the man is dead at all.  Like the other groups, there were various degrees of skepticism in this category, with some citing the fact that the ‘burial at sea’ seemed fishy (no pun intended), and pointed out that news like this can make an embattled incumbent look very good come voting season, to those who hatched elaborate conspiracy theories that all but involved the Illuminati, Jimmy Hoffa, and of course, Elvis.

4. ‘Pop’inions:

These ran the gamut from the chuckle-worthy to the downright disgusting; they were opinions based on the holder’s favorite celebrity’s opinion.  And there were no shortage of those- while some used their platforms to admonish their fans to educate themselves and take more active roles in their world politically, others saw it as a PR opp and took to their soapboxes to push their own agendas and beliefs. Some were heralded for their ‘patriotism’, while others were revered for their Bodhisattva-like compassion.

In many ways, it was inspiring to see so many young Americans truly considering the issues that will shape their society’s future. On the downside, some were not thinking at all, but merely parroting without understanding, evinced by the threatening vitriol delivered by one teenager to an army wife who challenged a popular artist the teen was ‘supporting’. It became an issue of defending their idols, with the main point getting lost in the shuffle.

Everyone is right, and everyone is wrong.

A political enemy has been vanquished. However, the death of Osama bin Laden does not end terrorism.  Making the news some kind of Mardi Gras occasion simply affirms the ideas of those who believe we are classless, irreverent, and foolish.

Violence begets more violence. But, maintaining that all killing is the same, therefore, we as a nation are on the same level as Bin Laden himself, is irresponsible, and disrespectful to the men and women in the armed forces whose lives we, as civilians, cannot fathom. If all killing was the same, there wouldn’t different words for it: murder, execution, genocide, euthenasia. It is both disingenuous and naive to ascribe universal malice to each. Motive matters. In all things. It must.

Trusting in the government to protect us and always tell us the truth is what got us into half the trouble we’re in. We would do well to remember that Thomas Jefferson’s notion that  “dissent is the highest form of patriotism”  still rings true. However, fear-mongering only taints that dissent with  incredibility, and consoles the gullible with the assurance that only “crazies” would question those in authority.

Today, no one is apathetic. But unfortunately, many people will forget their zeal by next week.

Everyone is right, and everyone is wrong.

Imperfectly, slowly, clumsily, we are sorting out our differing viewpoints- and what they say about us as human beings.

The point is:  We have the right. To cheer, to rage, to deride, to question, to react to this event in whatever way our hearts and minds tell us to. Agree, disagree, discuss, dispute…Because this is America- we have the right.


Which is more than the people under the Taliban ever had.


VK Lynne blogs at AMessLikeMe.  You can also follow her on Twitter.






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