Editorial – On the Death of bin Laden

by Bill Coburn

I have mixed emotions today.  I was raised to believe that it is not okay to rejoice in someone else’s misfortune, and to rejoice in someone’s death is never okay.  Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that Osama bin Laden was an evil man.  I believe that the world is safer without him, and that the U.S. was correct in hunting him down, even in killing him.  I accept his death.  But I am not comfortable with rejoicing in his death.

I was never in the military.  I do not know the stress and pressure of having a son, daughter or sibling in harm’s way because they are part of the war begun in response to the evil acts perpetrated by those who hate America and the American way of life.  I’ve had relatives and friends who have served our country.  While there was always an undercurrent of concern for their safety, I happen to be one of those people who generally believes that things are going to be okay until I’m proven wrong.  So I don’t know how my attitude might change if I had lost a loved one, or even if I was just 24/7 tense out of concern for their safety.

But I know a man who lost a son in the World Trade Center, a firefighter who ran into one of the Twin Towers to rescue those who were inside.  You can read that story here.  John Napolitano, Sr. was approached by a New York TV crew at an anniversary memorial of 9/11, and asked if he had any anger.  I found his answer inspiring.  He said “My anger is that, in this day and age, with all the spectacular things that humankind can do, with all the goodness that is in us, that there are people that are filled with so much hate and rage at those that don’t think the way they do, or don’t pray the way they do, that they are willing to sacrifice themselves just to know that they killed and made them suffer.. them and their families.”  Napolitano continued in his e-mail to me “To those people who would commit, or condone, acts of hatred, I say this.. that although the world saw on September 11, 2001 such an act of hate.. they also saw acts of Compassion, Professionalism, and Profound Courage, and it is these acts that the World at large will forever remember and embrace.:

I have seen an outpouring of reactions to Osama’s death on Facebook, from people that are my friends.  Let me say first that I respect everyone’s right to say what they will in reaction, that’s one of the things that makes this country the great place that it is.  Many of them are expressing their thanks for the role played by the men and women in the service who risk their lives daily in the war on terror.  I, too, am grateful for the service and sacrifice of so many Americans.  Some of these folks are rejoicing and expressing attitudes that I just can’t be comfortable about, though.

I remember the revulsion I felt when I saw people in the Middle East cheering and jumping up and down celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers.  Celebration not unlike that which was broadcast from the White House last night.  And I can’t help but consider the fact that it is representative of an attitude which stoked the fires of hatred which caused bin Laden and his supporters to attack us in the first place.  They kill us and cheer, we kill them and cheer.  When does it end?

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate… Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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