Doesn’t it seem sad somehow that it took the assassination of Osama bin Laden to reignite our national patriotism?
For 10 very long years, bin Laden has been our Public Enemy No. 1, our officially sanctioned Bogey Man. After his death was announced, the spontaneous gatherings that occurred outside the White House, at sporting events and at other locations around America were truly inspiring, especially when the crowds began to sing the national anthem.
For me, it brought back memories of a decade ago (has it been that long?!), when all of us banded together after the 9/11 attacks and, regardless of race, class or political affiliation, we collectively declared our pride in — and allegiance to — our country.
After Sept. 11, 2001, we agreed justice would be ours. But, as the years passed, we drifted away from that feeling of national unity, and our public discourse became mired in ugly and divisive political rhetoric.
Now, with bin Laden’s death, we’ve finally gotten that justice. Feel better?
For the most part, I do. Through the brave actions of our Navy SEALs Team Six, we have demonstrated that no matter how long it takes, America will prevail; that a crime against one of us is a criminal act against all of us. We’ve shown the world America is still a great and powerful nation, and nothing will stop us from seeking what is right and just.
But, a man is dead — along with several others living in his Pakistan compound — and it seemed a bit strange to me when America’s demonstrations morphed from patriotic solidarity into celebrations of hooting, hollering and joyous flag-waving. To me there just seems to be no place for fist pumping and delighted chants about bin Laden’s death.
Gloating over death does not become us.
Some of the scenes I saw play out in American streets after bin Laden was declared dead mirrored the video broadcast after 9/11 in which screaming throngs of zealots in foreign countries thumped their chests and gleefully called for America’s complete destruction.
Every time I saw news footage like that, I thought to myself, “What ignorant people, without humanity or morals.” Do you remember seeing them enjoy our monumental loss and pain? It fueled our passion for vengeance, and now some of us are stoking their need for retribution. It is a tragic cycle.
Am I the only one who thinks we should be more humble in our victory?
Look, I’m no prude. I’m the first to stand and wildly applaud the brave military unit that accomplished this necessary task. I’m thankful that the evil that was bin Laden has been wiped off the earth. But passing around cartoons like the one that immediately sprang up on the Internet featuring a Photoshopped picture of the Statute of Liberty holding the severed and bloody head of bin Laden with the caption “Game Over” is neither funny nor poignant.
And, the full front-page New York Daily News headline the morning after the assassination (shown on every major TV network) that read, “Rot in Hell,” made me cringe because it doesn’t reflect who we really are, our true American ideals and values. We’re better people than that headline suggests.
It’s hard to sort out all our feelings at a time like this, but I want us to take the highest road. Like those who immediately converged on the sacred 9/11 locations with reverence and prayers. Throngs of solemn Americans arrived to quietly walk around the spot where the mighty World Trade Center towers once stood in lower Manhattan; at the lonely field outside Shanksville, Pa., where the hijacked plane nosedived after brave Americans on board stormed the cockpit; and at the Pentagon, where 125 innocent people lost their lives.
They came to thoughtfully honor the memory of the nearly 3,000 who died on that horrible day — Sept. 11, 2001 — not to express glee at more death.
Those hushed strolls around the hallowed grounds seemed the right way to mark the passing of the man who declared he would wipe America off the face of the earth. That was the proper, humble, low-key way to say, “We win, you lose.”
A friend of mine named Craig wrote wondering if this was really justice since justice would have meant a trial and everything that goes with it. “It seems more like vengeance or payback,” he wrote. I can’t disagree with that. But this isn’t a court of law — IT IS WAR — and it’s a war Osama bin Laden started. He killed out of hate. We kill to keep the world safer.
Now, please, let’s try to hold on to our newly found feeling of unity. It’s our best hope for the future.