Well that wasn't the way I expected this Sunday evening to wind up.
I first saw a post on facebook, then another, and then the television was turned on and all the networks were talking about what the president was about to announce. The tendency of news organizations to tell us the news before it is formally announced is starting to annoy me but that's not important right now.
Osama Bin Laden, the purported mastermind of the attacks on our nation on 9/11/2001, has been killed.
After 10 years and in the midst of 2 wars that he helped legitimize, this man has been met with justice. A friend of mine named Brandon quoted a proverb that is very wise in response to this news.
"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles. Proverbs 24:17"
Bin Laden's death, while a symbolic exaction of justice, is still a death. The reason we may be glad is that we feel he deserved death for the horrible acts he instigated and continued to encourage. But the fact that a person would be consumed with hate and malice is a saddening thing, and it would have been far better for everyone had he chosen a peace method of airing his grievances. This man was a son, a father, a husband, a human being. We tend to demonize historic figures who've done terrible things and effectively dehumanize them because no real human could act with so much evil. Except it's not true.
Even just recently I was listening to a radio program where a writer promoting a book of his experiences representing death row criminals. During the interview he spoke of how one of the things that struck him about his clients was that most didn't appear to be inhuman monsters and that in fact he was struck by how ordinary they seemed. Yet these men had committed horrible acts.
I mention all that to illustrate that as horrible as the acts that have been committed against us are, our enemies are still our brothers. I think the reason the Proverb admonishes gloating over a fallen enemy is that the whole situation is sad. The act of offense was horrible, and the fact it led to more destruction is horrible. How much better would it have been if the resources used to destroy buildings and lives a world away had been used to feed the hungry and poor in a place that still needs it. How much better would it have been if our countries had not been incited to war, killing many more on both sides? The whole situation is a damned shame.
We are glad that Bin Laden cannot incite or plot any more than he has, but it should not be because he is now dead. It would be a matter of rejoicing if he had realized the error in his ways and renounced terrorism, turning his organizations efforts from destruction to building. That would have been a result to celebrate.
It's hard to tell if this will actually dishearten Bin Laden's followers or if they are, as one mid-east reporter said, largely apathetic to this once prominent figure. It has been 10 years of pursuit by the most powerful national allies in the world. 10 years is a lot of time to escape the tremendous pressure. I'm sure it wasn't easy. Our enemy may not see this as any particularly meaningful defeat. With that said, in Bin Laden's killing we have an amount of resolution to a painful part of our country's history. It is a testament to our nation's determination and no doubt much sacrifice by our service men and women. It was a solemn task and whether it is received well or not, the message that we do relentlessly seek justice for crimes committed is clear. Our president offered a well written and well spoken speech to announce this historic event and even though we have political differences, I am proud of the way he chose to handle this.
If only this meant the war was over...