Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rejoicing about Death

I seldom publicly share my opinions and beliefs with respect to politics, religion, and other controversial issues. I feel compelled, however, to air my feelings about the rejoicing generated by the death of Osama bin Laden.

Yes, he was a terrorist. Yes, during his lifetime he was responsible for many, many deaths and much suffering. And yes, the world is a safer place now that he's no longer alive.

No, I don't have a problem with the fact that our president (and government) had him killed. What I have a problem with is the unrestrained and gleeful rejoicing.

As a person whose life was touched by the violent acts of a horrible man (not bin Laden), I understand the anger, the pain, the sense of loss, and all the other traumas a person experiences when a loved one suffers at the hands of another. I understand the desire and need for revenge--I've felt it personally. I also understand exactly how it feels to wish an awful person dead--and I'm not proud of that feeling.

What I don't understand is feeling joyful about death--even a horrible person's death.  The fact that Osama bin Laden was evil enough to warrant assassination is sad. It's horrifying and mind-boggling. The fact that he possessed enough personal power and political influence to to affect the world on such a large scale--and that he used all that power and influence in evil, hurtful ways--is even more horrifying and mind-boggling.

Yes, I'm glad bin Laden can't harm another person and that his evil influence has been removed from the earth. I can't help believing, however, that all the rejoicing, dancing, and happiness about his death is ghoulish.

I once attended the sentencing hearing of a man who was jailed for committing a sexual assault. Did I hate the man? Yes. Did I pray for the death penalty? Yes. But during the hearing my heart also broke for the woman sitting behind me in the courtroom: the man's mother.

As much as I was suffering, as much as the assailant's victims were suffering, so was the assailant's mother. She had to witness, with her own eyes and ears, the extent of her son's depravity and evilness. She has to live with the knowledge that she gave birth to him. She has to think of him--every day for 18 years--locked up in prison as he pays for the crimes he commited.

Death wears many faces and none of them deserve rejoicing.


  1. Totally agree with you, Linda. The reaction from many quarters left me feeling deeply uneasy. I suspect the silent majority were feeling much as you and I were. Interestingly, now through blogs etc "we" have a way of being heard.

  2. Michael, Thanks for commenting. Although this blog post has received many hits, you're the first to say anything. I'd originally expected others to disagree. Now I'm wondering if there are far more people out there who are as disturbed as I am with the excess of violence in the world. Like death, violence wears many faces. Thanks for your support.

  3. Unsurprisingly, I'm in total agreement, too. And it was brave of you to express this opinion, Linda. No doubt about it, the Times Square revellers made me shiver - young, presumably intelligent human beings glorying in an assassination. Yes, he was an extremely nasty, immoral individual, whose own attitude to the lives of others was callous and inhuman, but braying with glee about it dropped them to his level. We're still a long way from being civilised.

  4. Great article (as usual). Your thoughts are appreciated!