“I don’t celebrate any person’s death. Sorry.” – Khadijah Queen
That’s the line I read when I opened my Facebook page last night, and thank God that is was the first thing I saw. It set the context for all the other things I read, many of which really disturbed me.
Osama bin Laden is dead. This is, as we now know, a fact.
There are many things to consider here – many things I don’t know for sure. Here is what I do know. bin Laden commanded people into acts that killed thousands, encouraged young children to kill themselves for his cause, and corrupted a faith to make it seem focused on jihad rather than belief or sacrifice. I also know Osama bin Laden was a man who was loved by many, by his family, and by God.
As my friend Mike said this morning, “This is a good thing, but I’m conflicted because a man is dead.” That’s the kind of voice of nuance and compassion I was hoping to hear more of on Facebook last night. I can see – if not feel for myself – the military victory involved here, the success in achieving a goal. I can even see how this might feel just and right vengeance.
But I cannot understand how it is right to revel in the death of another human being. The fact that we cannot see Osama bin Laden as a human (and I’m choosing to think this is what’s happening here rather than thinking my friends would actually take joy in the ending of human life – this belief of mine may be naive) says a lot about who we are as a people. It seems perhaps we have located so much of our fear, our hate, our lust for vengeance in this man that we can no longer see him as a person with children, as a man who ate, who laughed, who cried. What does this inability to recognize his humanity say about us?
I am in no way excusing bin Laden’s actions or discounting the lives of the people his actions killed. But I do think it possible to mourn the life of another person who, yes, has failed miserably to live up to his potential for good and who has caused a great deal of death and suffering but despite it all, was still a man . . . a man loved by God. If I cannot know that, if I cannot honor that fact, then I have no hope that I – whose shames are much less public and, perhaps, less devastating (but perhaps not) – am loved by God.
So today, I am sad. We lost another child of God.