Well, he’s dead.
Or is he?
US President Barack Obama’s Sunday announcement that security forces had located and eliminated longtime enemy Osama bin Laden met with a wide variety of responses. There were serious discussions of international security. There was political nastiness from both sides. There were, of course, a host of conspiracy theories. And then there were the jubilant celebrations?bonfires, drinking, exuberant Facebook posts, even commemorative t-shirts?that spread throughout the country like wildfire.
And as the party spread, an unsettling thought invaded my mind: Osama bin Laden is indeed alive.
But not in the way you think.
Forget questions of politics, conspiracy theories, arguments of war and security, and the like. The old sayings suggest that our true character is known when we hit hard times?how do we respond to challenges? But I think that an even higher level of character is tested when we ?win.?
It’s like a kid on a baseball team. Sure, sportsmanlike behaviour requires losing with good grace. But it also requires winning with good grace, and sometimes That’s a lot harder?especially when the stakes are high. So from one perspective, jubilantly celebrating another’s death is like a little kid wagging his finger in front of his losing opponent: embarrassingly childish.
But It’s worse than that. I’ve been told countless times that he was an evil man, he destroyed thousands of lives, he had plenty of chances. And I’m not going to argue those points. But what did bin Laden stand for? Oppression? Hatred? Abuse of power? Manipulation by twisting religious fervour? Spreading anger and division? Destruction of lives? Aren’t we all better off without one like him in the world?
Maybe, unless our own attitudes and emotions make us into new versions of the man.
One Jewish scholar put it best: ?Relief is appropriate,? she writes, but it needs to stop there. ?Celebration may just cross over a spiritual line.?
She elaborates, explaining that while we might feel ?a need to cry out in joy . . . these knee-jerk reactions should be tempered by the larger question of what a human life is worth.? All the more if that life was wasted by hatred, anger, and wanton disregard for the life of others.
Celebration of death may be understandable, but gradually losing our respect for life lowers our humanity bit by bit. At what level do we begin to approach a bin Laden-esque view of the value of human life?
That’s definitely nothing to celebrate.