Neither tears nor joy
You probably remember what you were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. I do. Seeing the second plane turn into the North Tower on live television, hearing shortly thereafter about the attack on the Pentagon followed by the crash in rural Pennsylvania made it clear that what was unfolding was a carefully orchestrated series of events. In other words, we had enemies. Someone had worked very hard to kill as many unsuspecting people as possible, people just going about their daily lives.
When the Twin Towers collapsed and the body count rose, it was hard to imagine that anyone would intentionally inflict such horror. People were so overwhelmed by what happened, that it seemed as if everyone was moving about in a daze, just going through the motions. Lighting our vigil candles, we were numb.
I remember how I felt when all the planes were grounded. I had never really noticed the air traffic much before. But in the silence of those September skies, the questions seemed as loud as the F15s that flew up and down the coast. Would we seek justice? Yes. Would Americans stand together? Yes. Would we ever forget? No. Would we buckle under the threat of radical Islamist terror? No. Would we hunt down the man who dared to claim credit for such barbaric and murderous acts? Oh, yes.
Now, after nearly 10 years, our Special Forces have finally found and killed Osama bin Laden. When I heard the news, I certainly felt relieved. But as more details emerged from Abbottabad, Pakistan, my feelings became more mixed, and a whole new set of questions formed. Just when did the raid occur? Initial reports stated that it had been over a week prior to the announcement. Was the government of Pakistan involved -- or informed --in any way? It seemed that officials there could not have been ignorant of bin Laden's location, right next to a military training center. How was the information that resulted in locating bin Laden's compound obtained? After all, "enhanced interrogation" techniques were championed by the previous administration, but condemned by the current one. How was the body positively identified? I thought DNA testing took a lot longer.
But as numerous and conflicting versions of the raid came out, even deeper concerns surfaced. Why were we so quick to dispose of the corpse by burying it at sea? Why did American operatives observe Muslim customs by washing the body, wrapping it in a white shroud, and performing Islamic religious rites in Arabic? And why was any physical evidence that could prove the death of bin Laden withheld?
To tell you the truth, I'm glad that Osama is dead, and that he was killed by our military forces. But I am not at all happy to see any celebration of his death. Why? Because as I remember the aftermath of 9/11, the image that still upsets me most was that of Muslims in the Middle East dancing in the streets, young men firing their rifles into the air, and veiled women handing out candy.
Americans are better than that, at least we used to be. We didn't party when Hitler, or Mussolini, or Stalin died, or even when the Nuremburg war criminals were executed. We haven't been a people who easily confuse justice with revenge. While we are quick to defend all we love, historically we've been reticent to celebrate a victory in battle when there's still a war to be fought.
As Christians, we should know why Easter is the center of our faith in Christ. Death isn't something to celebrate. Indeed, as the result of sin, death is our ultimate enemy. The salvation Jesus offers us is the result of his victory over death. While violence may be necessary at times, we must never lose sight of the fact that it is not good. We should fight knowing that defeating evil in this world always entails the risk that we might just become a bit more like the evil we're fighting.
I am grateful for those who risk their lives to protect the rest of us. I stand in awe of and gratitude for their sacrifice and service. But I'm not particularly interested in seeing photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse. Yes, he dedicated his life to causes of violence and evil. Yes, he inspired and coordinated acts of terrorism, even killing in the name of god. But though he spent his life denying the humanity of us "infidels," I won't return the favor. At his end, as at his beginning, Osama bin Laden was a human being, just like I am.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.