Monday, May 02, 2011

Why I can't celebrate bin Laden's death

The reported death of Osama bin Laden has saturated the news media all day. In style of this communications era, I heard via SMS. My response was minimal, if slightly saddened. I often find myself saying words at a funeral which intimate that the death of the person is the death of a part of each one of us. I’d take that one step further – our response to the death of another is indicative and formative of who we are. As I have listened to reports and responses in the hours since, I find myself ever more deeply saddened. The first words I read were those of President Obama, who lauded the American achievement. "Tonight is a testament to the greatness of our country," he said. I wondered if he really meant what he said, or even fully understood it. After all, it only took 10 years, more than one trillion dollars, the death or mutilation of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, the almost complete destruction of two countries, and the sacrifice of hard-fought freedoms, but this great nation caught its one target. Perhaps we should take the president's statement with a little hint of irony, I thought.

And then I cringed at the response of our Australian political leaders. Osama bin Laden “had been brought to justice,” declared the Leader of the Opposition. Really? I thought he was dead. No court on this planet can bring justice now – at least not in the way I thought the West understood it. And our PM welcomed not only the news of bin Laden’s death, but the death itself. His death is one more tragedy in a long line, bringing about neither greater peace nor security.

People rightly point to the terrorist acts which bin Laden designed and/or inspired as justification for their rejoicing in his death. The use of destructive force against other human beings is rarely, if ever justifiable. We too easily overlook the death of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, regarded as collateral damage in pursuit of a larger cause. That this justification could readily be employed by both sides and gain a supportive hearing depending on the context is a stark reminder that the line between terrorism and pursuit of justice is an indistinct one, and is shaped by where one is born on this planet. Even President Obama recently declared – unashamedly – that resorting to violence to solve an argument was inappropriate. Such a response underlines the insanity which pervades political debate about war and violence.

Ought we celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden? He was a human being created in the image of God. What motivated him remains a quandary, but in order to find the way of peace and hope, we must find our common humanity with him, and others like him. It is when we dehumanise others that it becomes easier to kill them, to regard their lives as less than our own. Al Qaeda and its supporters celebrated the deaths of those in New York on September 11. While we celebrate his death we demonstrate ourselves to be alike him in ways we would not care to admit. From the perspective of his supporters and those who loved him, such celebrations are insensitive in the same way we regarded the earlier 9/11 celebrations of his supporters.

It always intrigues me to see photos of infamous killers as babes-in-arms, innocent and hopeful, loved and embraced... it gives me pause to wonder at what transpired to shape them into cruel and sadistic killers. Osama bin Laden was such a babe-in-arms once. What life, what world, took him down the pathway which was his life? The answer to that question might give us pause for thought when we consider celebrating his death today.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Osama would say what lead him down the path he took was "God's will".

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with the original poster. I have read comments in the last few hours from PLENTY of church going people talking about how great this is, justice has been served, blah, blah, blah.

God is the author and finisher of all life. As an American, I still feel the pain of what happened nearly 10 years ago but killing the man behind the plot itself will never bring one person killed in the last 10 years back again.

It's time the world looked to God instead of their weapons of mass destruction. Peace.

geoff from barham said...

I was hoping somebody would point out the horror of victory celebrations over a political assassination.
A solemnity befitting capital punishment would have rendered the act of killing him as possibly justified, but the points you make show all the bad things about the way this is handled.

revheard said...

That Osama might have described it as "God's will" does not supply the final word. We are all creatures of our environment and interactions. God gets blamed for a lot of stuff we bring on ourselves, or on one another. We need to take appropriate responsibility.

Keith said...

I totally agree with your original posting. As a veteran myself I find it sickening to have to result to the taking of another's life... even a sworn enemy. I would rather see him brought to the courts to face his crimes against humanity. He will only be martyred and used as an example for others to step up and into his place. There are no winners in war.

Anonymous said...

Osama was created in the image of God? I wonder what god does with his Image. Yet the mighty God couldn't stop two air crafts from destroying twin towers? Obama was made president, maybe because he's more wiser than you. And that's why he's the President of the World's largest country and you just ... no one.

Ralph Heuer said...

Perhaps Obama wants to grab this opportunity to enhance his image. All the money USA spent on the wars against terrorism has to yield some results.

Why Americans celebrate his death? Have you ever had a family member killed by a terrorism act? And do you think that you know how it is like to be wounded in a bomb blast? Are you still 9 years old or do you have a mentality of a 9 year old?

revheard said...

What does God do with his image? He places it at the mercy of human beings like you and I. Therein lies the problem.

revheard said...

Keith, I have no idea what Obama's "personal" goals were. I can only surmise that he was carrying on a purpose instituted long before he gained office.
But I fail to see how Osama's death gives back the lives taken nearly ten years ago, or justifies the many more lost in the intervening period. At nine years of age I had long been teaching my children not to respond to violence with violence, but that there was a better way. To quote Gandhi "An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind." As a Christian, the model of Jesus' life also stands as a beacon of non-violence as the way of hope and peace. Only children would respond "he punched me first!"

Anonymous said...

"He was a human being created in the image of God" - What does God has to do with mouth nose and eyes, and the beard, if he doesn't eat, smell and see.

I wonder the what's with the beard too..

Joao Costa de Curacao said...

The ideology of God is in the genes of human. A brain of a human being can only process details to a limited extent, and it is reluctant to accept the fact the death is the end of it all. And a human body is a collaboration of millions of cells which are lives itself. Science gradually fills these gaps but it will take a long time to solve all the questions.

Religion is nothing but a fairy tale which is woven skilfully by the prophets of its own.

revheard said...

I admire your faith in science, Joao, one which has long been abandoned by the scientific community itself which recognises that there are questions which science cannot answer. Religion(s) grapple with the deeper questions of meaning and purpose in life which are common to all humanity. The religious quest is a continuing one, as is the scientific quest. Science, like religion, has made significant contributions to the world in which we live, but has also delivered us problems which we never imagined. Each has a continuing contribution to make, provided we don't retreat into simplistic ideology.

revheard said...

"The image of God" - the ability to create, relate, forgive, serve... We need to be careful not to recreate God in the image of humans (ie nose, eyes, beard...)