In the days since President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden on Sunday night, and the subsequent spontaneous celebrations that erupted across the nation, I have been reflecting a lot on my own reaction to the news as well as the reactions of the rest of our society.
I can’t say I was surprised to see live images of people cheering and waving American flags (and one Bush Cheney campaign sign) in front of the White House. But I immediately felt uncomfortable by the celebration. I readily admit that I’m not the least bit troubled that the world no longer has Osama bin Laden around. But to my mind there’s something unseemly in celebrating a human beings death, regardless of who he or she was or what they did.
I’m not Christian but one of the things I most admire about the teachings of Christ is the statement attributed to him from his final moments on the cross: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”. An inspiring example of forgiveness if ever there was one. I’m much more immersed in Buddhist teachings and there too you’ll find a message of forgiveness and compassion for even the worst people because of the fundamental teaching that we are all one.
As my workweek began I wondered to what extent these current events would present itself as a topic in my clients sessions. Often when there is big news in the world clients use some of their time to process their reactions. I was heartened that so many of my clients focused on the celebrations they observed and how it didn’t sit well with them. I observed the same kind of sentiments amongst my friends and acquaintances on Facebook. And finally, as the week progressed, the media itself began to comment on the issue, with articles in the Boston Globe (Rejoicing Over Death of bin Laden Debated) and the New York Times (Celebrating a Death: Ugly, Maybe, but Only Human).
As the New York Times article suggests, celebrating the death of someone like Osama bin Laden may be human, but apparently, for a smaller minority of us, it’s also human to be put off by the celebration. And that minority heartens me because I believe they are our future.