Monday, May 2, 2011

Celebrating death

Ten years from now if someone asks me where I was when I heard about the death of Osama bin Laden, I'll answer that I was at a friend's house after a nice dinner and some episodes of Doctor Who, and that I initially received the news by text from my brother.  We all stuck around for a while before heading home, watching the various reports and the President's speech, and taking in what was going on.

It'll just be one of those days in American history.

Another such day happened ten years ago.  I was getting ready for school when my mom told me about the first plane hitting one of the World Trade Center towers.  It was big news, but I didn't get a picture of just how big until I got to school and every TV in the building was on.  We watched all day as our lives and our country were changed.

At that time there was also footage shown of celebration over the attacks.  In some parts of the world, where the terrorists found support and America was an enemy, people ran out into the streets rejoicing over what had happened. 

Fast forward ten years, and we see something similar in our own country:

To be honest, I'm saddened at what we have become.

I do not mourn the loss of Osama bin Laden.  I admit that at some point in the past ten years, like perhaps many others of us, I too participated in at least one conversation about what I might do to the terrorist leader if I ever met him.  He was responsible for the murder of thousands, and he will be held accountable before God. 

But I am not God.  It is not my place to call for bin Laden to "rot in hell," or to cast any such judgment as to his fate.  As imperfect, mortal humans, we are incapable of dealing true, complete justice.  Only God can do that, because He not only knows a man's actions: He knows his heart, mind, and every circumstance and detail.  As much as we can do, no matter to whom, vengeance does not equate with justice.  And I will not celebrate the death of another human being--even a man with so much innocent blood on his hands.

Of course I understand that thousands have lost loved ones because of this man.  For the rest of their lives, they have to live with the empty seat at the dinner table, the flowers on the grave.  My heart goes out to them.  I believe in self and national defense, and indeed, we had something to defend.  I don't know if I would have felt right not taking action after the attacks; and, given the option between keeping bin Laden in prison or sentencing him to death, I likely would have chosen the death penalty.  I do not deny that.  But I would not have enjoyed it.  If an intruder broke into my home and threatened my family, I would shoot.  I would do what I had to do to protect my family.  But I would never be happy I killed or even just hurt someone.  Not even in self defense.  I'd actually be saddened that it had to come to that.

This can be a good day for America, but it shouldn't be because Osama bin Laden has been killed.  If that is the reason, it is not a good day, because celebrating death makes us no better than our adversaries.  No, what would make today good is the fact that we remain a free nation, even after the horrific attempts of others to take that freedom away.  And while I don't rejoice in the death of this man, I am grateful that the search for him is over and that no more lives will be taken at his hands.  If there is anything to celebrate, it is those things.

There is a quote shared with me by my friend Sarah that I feel says it best.  It has spread rapidly over the Internet during the past day, and while we may never know who really said it (it's inaccurately attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.), the message is its true value:

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

I pray that America will keep that in mind as time goes on.  Now, with Osama bin Laden laid to rest, I turn my attention to what happens next.  Should be an interesting ride.


Jonas said...

Beautiful comment, Nathan, I'm glad to read this. I agree with your words, it really echoes my own thoughts when I heard the news, both of his death and the rejoicing.

Lydia said...

This really bothers me as well. Celebration of death, especially death brought on by another human just seems really wrong.

Last year, the republican student group on campus was giving out cookies to celebrate the death of some dictator and I just couldn't believe it. When someone dies we should mourn, not celebrate. If not mourning the individual and their actions, at least the wasted potential.

Relief that a terrorist or dictator can't spread more fear or end more lives is one thing. Celebrating their death is another.

Nathan said...

Thank you both for your comments. I'm thankful that there are others like you who feel the way I do.

Lydia, that wasted potential is an interesting way of looking at the situation. And it's true: imagine what this man could have done if he'd used his talents and resources for good! It's too bad, really, and I'm sure Heavenly Father is even more greatly pained at that than we are.

Della Marie said...

Nathan and Lydia, Thank you for so eloquently stating everything that I couldn't seem to articulate...

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