We got him. On Sunday, May 1, 2011 President Barack Obama announced to the world that he had authorized a covert military team to raid a compound thought to be the hiding place of Osama bin Laden. In the ensuing raid, bin Laden and four other people were killed. The man who perpetrated the single worst attack on American soil was finally dead, nearly ten years after the crime he was accused of committing. Almost immediately after the announcement was made, crowds began assembling near the White House and at Ground Zero and Times Square to celebrate what the President had just announced. It brought to mind images from two of pop cultures biggest movies; The Wizard of Oz and Return of the Jedi. There is a scene in each of those movies where the citizens are celebrating the death of an evil dictator or tyrant. Those movies come to mind because of what happened in the late hours of Sunday night into the early hours of Monday morning was very similar. People broke out into the National Anthem, and God Bless America. Strangers hugged one another. People of all shapes and sizes and nationalities came together for a moment of unity. It was the first time in a long time that Americans came together to celebrate in such a fashion. However, was it really worth celebrating in the streets over?
The answer to that question is not and easy one. Osama bin Laden perpetrated the worst attack on American soil in our nations history. He was a hunted man for the better part of 15 years. He was not just a terrorist, but a mass murderer with the blood of thousands of people on his hands and showed absolutely no remorse for his actions. Yet, is it right to be celebrating the death of another human being? Do we, as a society, by celebrating this death make ourselves look more like the enemy than the ones on the right side of the law? The death of bin Laden is something that Americans should be relieved to hear. But, as President Obama said in his address to the nation Sunday night, it does not mean the war is over. It does not mean we are now safe from those who would do us harm. All it means is that there is one less man in the world who wants to do our nation harm. But, there will be someone to take his place. That is how history works. You kill one evil person, there is always someone waiting in wings to rise up and take the reins. No doubt, that will happen after the death of bin Laden. In fact, it probably already has.
There is something else worth looking at, after the news broke about the raid; people are wondering if what the United States did was legal. People are questioning whether he is really dead. In fact, there are those who are calling into question whether the President took the easy way out by killing bin Laden instead of bringing to the United States to be tried for murder. First, for those who think what President Obama did was illegal, let them think about what could have happened if he did not act. In this case, it has been revealed that bin Laden was planning something big for the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. If pundits and news prognosticators want to question the legality of our President’s actions in this manner, let them. But, let them also than question the legality of President Bush going to war in Iraq and let both men stand trial.
Second, he’s dead folks. Deader than a doornail. Deader than the Wicked Witch of the West. If someone wants to see pictures to prove that this man is dead, that individual is just looking for a reason to doubt the President in the first place; just like those who do not believe the President was born in the United States or that 9/11 was an inside job or countless other conspiracy theories. I also believe it is very poor taste to show pictures of a dead person on television; especially if that person was shot through the head. Did bin Laden show that kind of sensitivity to the United States when he attacked? Absolutely not! The images of the Towers on fire and the Pentagon collapsing is enough to tell anyone bin Laden did not care. However, this country has different values than that of a terrorist mastermind. This country was founded on different principles. Yes, there are times we are obsessed with the macabre, we are curious about things, but in our hearts, we are decent people who try to live upstanding lives. Being an upstanding citizen and living a morally correct life does not mean parading around pictures of our dead enemies. When Saddam Hussein was executed, it was absolutely disgusting for the television networks to show his execution. If networks and newspapers had decided to show photos of bin Laden, it would have crossed a threshold of good taste that even our own journalists would and should think twice about crossing.
The final big question that has to be answered and is one that has been on many people’s’ mind is; “What do we do now?” Now that our tormentor is dead and on the bottom of the sea, where do we go? How do we hate? This would not be America if we didn’t hate and vilify. But who is next? The Soviet Union is gone. China is slowly becoming one of our allies. South Africa got rid of apartheid yeas ago. No doubt the politicians are working on finding someone else they can cast doubt on and tell us American’s to hate. And, like good a soldier the citizens will go on hating this group or that group or whoever they are told to hate. But, and here is a very radical idea; what if we no longer hate? What if we took our collective hate and turned it around to love? Yes, there is always going to be conflict in the world. Yes, there are always going to be people and groups who want to destroy us. However, what if we, as a nation, stopped falling into the same trap over and over again? How about the nation, instead of keeping the endless circle of hate going, stops it? It may not always work, but would it not be a better example for the our children and our children’s children?
President Obama did a noble thing this week. Among the calls for releasing the pictures of a Osama bin Laden laying dead on the floor, Obama chose not to. Why? It would only serve to isolate this country even more. It would only serve to enrage those who already hate us. It would only cause there to be less good will. By not releasing the picture, President Obama did something George W. Bush knew nothing about. He showed tact and respect. Obama may not have shown those when he ordered the terrorist attacks on our nation, but by not stooping the level of the terrorist we killed, Obama made the point that: “This is America. We have a higher standard than the rest of the world.” If that is something people cannot live with, maybe they are living in the wrong country.