Which Old Witch?
I confess: When President Obama announced that world terrorist Numero Uno, Osama Bin Laden had been assassinated my heart stirred with a strange sense of vague satisfaction.
On the one hand, a very human part of me wanted to run across the street and ring the bells of the Old Stone Church on Cleveland’s Public Square: “Ding, dong, the witch is dead!” I wanted to text Moses’ sister Miriam and ask her to break out the tambourines and lead us in a victory dance the way she did after God guided her people safely through the Red Sea, annihilating the Egyptian soldiers in the watery-wake (Exodus 15:23).
Yet, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was rejoicing about. Certainly not victory; the time for that had long since come and gone (a friend admitted that he had forgotten we were even looking for Bin Laden). And everyone and his grandmother know that the war against Al-Qaida and its terroristic hold on the world still goes on.
Besides as a person of faith, I recognize that it is just downright bad form to dance on your enemy’s grave. In a statement about as dull as a bread knife, the Roman Catholic Church said: “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.” Dreary, yes, but the statement is biblical. Proverbs 24:17 says “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”
But I haven’t seen many Americans are rejoicing over Bin Laden’s death. I think our feelings are far more complex than the media’s simple and sensational portrayal.
Perhaps Laura Cunningham, a 22 year-old Manhattanite who partied Sunday night with a crowd at Ground Zero can shed some light here. She told the New York Observer: “It’s weird to celebrate someone’s death. It’s not exactly what we’re here to celebrate, but it’s wonderful that people are happy.”
The End of an Error
Laura and every other ‘twenty-something’ (the demographic which celebrated most visibly following Bin Laden’s death) have good reason to cheer. She and her generation have spent nearly half their lifetime under the sinister cloud of terrorism which billowed-up on 9-11-01.
Almost from the day the world shouted “hurrah!” about a new millennium, Laura and her friends, some of the unnamed casualties of our decade-old ‘war on terror’, have suffered the relentless burden of a new homeland security program, amber warnings, political scare tactics, propaganda movies, on-line truth twisting, pat-downs and strip-searches at the airport. They’ve also endured the largest economic recession since the great depression, crashing housing markets, soaring unemployment and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness about the future (not to mention a plethora of school shootings, super flues, devastating hurricanes and oil spills) which all seemed to have begun the day Osama Bin Laden orchestrated the largest attack on America ever – over 3000 killed in about an hour one fateful day in September 2001.
America raised today’s young people on a steady diet of fear, hatred and distrust. We taught them to believe no one. With political agendas – right and left disguised as news media we trained them to be suspicious of all and to assume everyone is lying save for John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and occasionally SNL.
Of course, Laura is happy; for her generation Bin Laden’s death opens the prospect of a new world, a second chance for a truly new millennium, now flickering with a dim light of possibility for peace and freedom here in America and perhaps throughout the world. Laura’s comments remind me of what we are all really celebrating in America today, not the death of our Al-Qaidan enemy but the rebirth of hope for a brighter tomorrow, a future free of terrorism, violence and uncertainty. If there is any rejoicing in America it is not that Bin Laden is dead, but that our hope has been raised.
So “wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed!” It might just be a brand new day for America and the world.