Last night around 10:30 it became very clear to the world that the President of the United States was going to make a big announcement and that that announcement was that THE enemy number one, Osama bin Laden, had been killed.
I had a lot of feelings about this, and so did many of my friends, and also those people that I follow on twitter who are not really my friends.
I’m not a huge fan of killing anybody, an ethic that is embodied in my vegetarianism and my feminist vegetarian ethic that I use to assess other major moral dilemmas like war, murder, abortion, carnivorism, and the death penalty. What my ethic tells me is this: killing, (and harming more generally) is sometimes, although rarely, necessary or acceptable, and that a culture of killing, especially one that moralizes such an act, is dangerous. I believe we become increasingly desensitized to violence in all forms when certain forms are legally or morally condoned.
That said, as I mentioned, it is from time-to-time, a necessary evil. I do believe in an ethic of Just War, and I do believe that a certain amount of death – proportionally – sometimes, is necessary. So I do not dismiss, criticize, or judge the killing of Osama bin Laden, but I am very suspicious of a celebration.
To a friend last night, I quoted Mark Twain: ”I have never wished a man dead, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” I thought that was pretty smart, and summed up about how I felt. Except, not really. I can’t even say that I took much pleasure in this.
I am that person who understands the anger and who is horrified by the atrocities of mass-murderers but still cannot bring myself to condone their death. I was shocked by the killing of Saddam Hussein. It seemed un-human, and un-modern of us, I suppose. I am that person who at the end of a CSI episode still feels pity and some sadness about the criminal who gets caught. Perhaps I am in the wrong there, but it’s a feeling. We all have those.
I had a lot of feelings last night. My feelings ranged from: “I don’t normally celebrate someone’s death, but if there was an appropriate time….” to “The guy on ctv can’t seem to get his obamas and osamas straight” and then to “Also, unrelated, but how does Lady Gaga get 22,500 likes on her status in less than 3 minutes? Also, unrelated, I apologize in advance for using Facebook like Twitter.” Finally, I was just outraged that people were partying in the streets.
It was the continued dialogue and Facebook and Twitter from friends that has had me thinking more about the moral repercussions of celebrating the killing of this admittedly pretty evil person.
I, along with everyone else, waited with abated breath, the speech from President Barack Obama. He spoke with strength and authority and took responsibility for having found and killed bin Laden.
I have no doubt that this will prove to be a big moment for this president and will undoubtedly shape his presidency and his future campaign, but, as many friends pointed out, he seems to be speaking “Bush”. But, most of us have come to understand that this is now Barack Obama the President, not Barack Obama the candidate. For example, I can’t help but feel that there is a little lack of humanity and a high level of American exceptionalism is some of his statements. “No Americans were killed,” he said. Surely, many non-Americans were though, right?
Here are some of the comments on my Facebook newsfeed since last night that I think are important to share with you. (I do warn you that there are a lot of theologians on my friends list):
From Garrett: “Prov 24.17, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice”; Ezek 18.32, “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord”; Ezek 33.11, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked.””
From Bill: “Bittersweet feelings. Bin Laden reaped what he had sown. As a Christian, it’s hard to celebrate the death of anyone. But I have to view this like chemotherapy: a necessary evil to excise a greater evil.”
From Marko: “A little startled by the euphoric celebration of someone’s death. Not a fan of Bin Laden but it’s not like two wars just ended….”
From Marcus: “has mixed feelings…. <soapbox> As an American, we still ain’t safe; as a Christian, this celebrating is detestable; as a Black man, the terror of bin Laden is NOT the worst in American history…. </soapbox> Turn my cartoons back on!!”
From Janice: ”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. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
So tell me what you think?