Shortly before midnight on May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that a U.S. mission to kill Osama bin Laden had been successful. At my own bar, there was a feeling of jubilance as shots of American-made whiskey were passed around as chants of “U.S.A.!” echoed, but I was left with a very different feeling.
As hundreds of young people flocked to the gates of the White House to celebrate, the images of similar celebrations came rushing back. Ten years ago, swarms of people throughout the Middle East cheered and chanted in the aftermath of 9/11, as Americans sat and watched in horror and in hatred. And yet despite our vilification of these people, we act no differently.
I do not mean to imply that one man’s death is at all equal to the murder of thousands of Americans, but I would make note that our reactions seem remarkably similar; and if we wonder why they hate us, it is because we hate them too.
The death of Osama bin Laden will certainly change the course of power and policy in the region. We have brought down an evil, vicious, sadistic murder and terrorist, and the world will be better for it, but death at any rate or for any reason is not a cause for celebration. Exploiting the euphoria of an American victory may make us feel good at the moment. It may even make us feel vindicated, or even justified in our actions, but it also gives credence to those that exploit our failures and defeats.
For them, 9/11 was a victory. For us, the death of bin Laden is a victory, but to say that one victory is more worthy of celebration over another works only to vilify us, vindicate them, and spread the misunderstanding, mistrust, and mutual disrespect that continues to propagate the very violence to which we stand opposed.
We are indeed a generation that has grown up in the shadow of Osama Bin Laden, but as that shadow dissipates, what will take its place? My brother, put it this way: “To transcend, and thereby absolutely put to rest that, which at our most humanitarian core we purport to fight, bleed, and die against, we must hold tight against the vacuum that Osama Bin Laden’s vitriol and blind hatred has left.”
Has knowing nothing but war and violence forced us to become more accepting of hatred? Has the constant fear or attack and terrorism enabled us to evade our own feelings of morality?
I hope not.