Why Are We Celebrating?


CBS/Associated Press

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.

Jen Schmidt I currently live in Washington D.C., though i still call New England home. I have a master's degree in public health and policy and a background in political science and communications. I work for social justice in health care, and am eager to engage social media, public movements, and sound policy to create and sustain lasting change. Twitter: @Jschmidt19

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2 Responses to “Why Are We Celebrating?”

  1. Alex Pearlman

    I can’t speak for anyone but myself. But I’m not celebrating the death of one human man… That would be too easy. I cheered with Marines in the Boston Common, because I know Marines, I’ve seen friends and brothers die, and the ones who came home are broken and I’m cheering for them. I’m cheering for all those civilians who died at the hands of American troops and al Qaeda in the past ten years in the wars we’ve waged against this man, his network, and what he symbolizes. I cheered with students because finally, after we’ve spent half of our lives listening to this guy’s statements made the top of the news, how his name haunted whispered conversation in airports, and how the idea of his being at large has gripped a generation who grew up hearing his name and being paranoid about his striking again, we don’t have to hear about it anymore. And to me, those things are something to celebrate for. If you can’t let in a little joy in wartime, have a little patriotism, a little love and let the soldiers and civilians know they’re appreciated, well… we’ve already lost.

  2. Jennifer Schmidt

    ‎”I will 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. –Martin Luther King Jr


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