How did you find out about Osama bin Laden’s death? I’ve read that a lot of people heard about it on some type of social media; I was one of them. I read something jokey about it on Twitter and went straight to the Associated Press app on my phone (which reported nothing yet), then flipped TV news channels until I found a station that had interrupted its regular programming.
Like many, I shared my initial reaction to the news on Facebook:
Here’s some expansion on those thoughts.
- Obama’s speech writers deserve bonuses for their fine writing, in my opinion. This was one speech that will be quoted for years to come. Better yet was its delivery—I can’t emphasize enough how nice it is to have a president who can deliver a speech without making my ears bleed. I loved how he encouraged us to unite. Something else I appreciated was how, once he had pointed out that the attack was “at [his] direction,” he talked about the skilled intelligence professionals and the courage and capability of those who actually carried out the attack and did not continue to credit himself with the success of the capture. Which brings me to my next thought…
- Them Navy SEALs are bad-ASS, yessir. I’m glad they’re on our side. While I am decidedly anti-war, I know it’s ridiculous to think we need no military forces at all. I support the people who have this distinct sense of duty to their country even if I don’t always support what they’re asked to do.
- There have been conflicting reports since the initial announcement about whether Osama bin Laden used his wife as a human shield during the attack on his compound. We may never know exactly what happened. Still, a guy who hides out for 10+ years is not exactly the embodiment of bravery.
- I don’t remember actually hootin’ and hollerin’, but I felt a flutter in my chest that I eventually identified as relief (or possibly heartburn). This coward was responsible for so much suffering.
But here’s the thing.
Jack came into the room while I was watching the news, and when he asked what happened, I told him “we” had finally found and killed Osama bin Laden. Jack asked who he was, and I said, “He’s the guy responsible for September 11. He’s the guy who got people to fly the planes into the buildings. He was a very angry, hateful man.”
Jack just looked at me. He stared like he was waiting for a punchline, because why would I be happy that someone died?
It’s a very hard thing to explain to a child. We teach them that killing people is wrong, and that death is a very sad thing (we’ve experienced it personally in our home this week). My kids’ generation has been raised knowing that the events of September 11, 2001 came about because some people hate our country. So are we telling them that there are exceptions to DO NOT KILL? That it’s okay to kill certain people? That it’s okay to rejoice in some deaths?
I feel odd even asking these rhetorical questions, because I fully admit that I support the death penalty. In fact, if it were up to me, people who torture and kill others would die for it, and in exactly the same way. This opinion does not come from watching too much Law & Order; I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. And I know that this view doesn’t fit with my pacifist, anti-war stance, nor does it go with most of my left-leaning political views. I struggle with this belief. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
One could easily draw comparisons between killing bin Laden to bombing abortion clinics (which I believe is a bad thing to do) or murdering someone who is knowingly spreading HIV (which I also believe is bad). So, really, reacting to the death of Osama bin Laden with joy—with hootin’ and hollerin’—contradicts so much of what I have taught my children.
I have no idea what I’m supposed to tell them. This is where this job of being a parent is so flippin’ scary—there may not be one right answer, but what if what I teach them is wrong? Or the way they interpret it is wrong? Or when one of them (probably Jack) becomes a serial killer that it will be blamed on bad parenting? Oh, geez. Now I know that’s totally gonna happen. Shit.
I imagine that on Sunday evening other people had a similar response to mine, in that it changed as the news sunk in. Was this something to rejoice? People keep saying the war on terror is over now that bin Laden is dead, but is al-Qaeda really powerless without him? I am quite sure there are plenty of dangerous people who still hate our country and all we stand for. Whether bin Laden’s death changes anything, time will tell. I definitely have concerns about retaliation.
Mostly, though, I’m concerned with what we’re teaching our children as we react to this week’s news.