In response to the celebrations and expressions of jubilation over the killing of Osama bin Laden, the following Face Book post from a recent college grad* that includes an MLK,Jr quote that has since been offerred repeatedly on FB as a well-meaning effort to remind us to 'not overdo it' as my Father would have said:
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.
While I agree with the powerful ideas of peace and love presented in FB status post and the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, who I consider a great and courageous man, I also believe we can and should celebrate the event that is presented by the killing of Osama bin Laden in the same way we celebrated the victories of our past, the question is how best to do that.
I'll explain both why and how after the fold.
*UPDATE: Per the first comment from JSFOX after the Tip Jar, the MLK Quote in my initial diary incorrectly included a FB entry that prefaced the quote but has since "gone viral" as being part of the quote. Title also changed.
While we should avoid both the blood lust and pep-rally atmosphere into which such celebrations can too easily devolve, I believe we can and should rejoice in justice finally being served. We can celebrate the bravery and skill of those who saw that justice was served. And we can be thankful that he is no longer among us to spread his hate, his intolerance and his murderous schemes.
I am glad he is gone. I would be more glad if he had never existed at all.
But I do not believe it is wrong to celebrate this event any more than it has been wrong to celebrate such events in the past.
When we celebrated and cheered in the streets after Germany and later Japan surrendered in WWII (both after massive losses of life) we were not celebrating death, we were celebrating the end of the relentless waves of dying and dread that war had brought. We were celebrating the end of that war.
Here we face a 'war' that will have no specific end date. For the college-age kids who were out cheering on Sunday night, we have been in this "war" for all the years they've been old enough to pay attention and understand. So I think they can be forgiven some excessive exuberance.
In fact, given the dread we have lived under since 9-11, I think we all can. (Not that all need for concern is gone, not that all of that dread was justified, and acknowledging that some of that dread was magnified by some for their political, policy and profit motives. But Osama bin Laden set that beast loose amongst us and the responsibility flows back to him.)
Given bin Laden's own desire that he be the face of al Qaeda, his death is at least a victory in that struggle, even though we know it is not the end of it.
And it is in that realization, that not only is this not the end, but that there realistically will be no end to the type of conflict we face or the type of tactic that so shocked us when it was brought onto our shores and its painful images of innocents' deaths and previously unimaginable destruction were brought streaming into our homes and our offices.
So in deciding how to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, I think we should look for something appropriate and fitting for this occassion.
Maybe his death is an opportunity for us to realize that as with other countries like the UK, Germany, Spain and Israel, etc, our freedoms make us more vulnerable to the attack of the moment.
And maybe his death is an opportunity for all of us to reaffirm that those same freedoms, while we ensure their existence, also remain our greatest protections over the years and decades during which we will face this kind of conflict and during which we and those young people will live under the continued threat of this kind of tactic.
While we cannot forget the death that started this nor the deaths that it has cost in the last 9+ years, the death of Osama bin Laden marks a victory for not only our Nation, but civilized peoples around the world who have also been victimized by his cruel hate.
It should allow us to reclaim a bit of the light in our world that he and those who have continued to benefit from those losses have stolen. It offers us the opportunity to reclaim some of the basic principles that in our haste and in our fear we allowed to become weakened or lost along the way.
The true victory over Osama bin Laden would be for us to commemorate his death by giving renewed life to those principles of freedom and tolerance that he could never have taken from us by force, but that through his continued threat he has lured us into surrendering on our own.