Monday, May 2, 2011

Bin Laden Is Dead

The headlines and talking heads globally will be discussing the events of yesterday and the weeks leading up to it for a long time. Conspiracy theorists will be having a field day, if they aren't already, while racists of all stripes may take this as a signal to go and kill people.
It is interesting for me because today is Yom HoShoah - Holocaust Rememberance Day. As such death is on my mind.
Watching television and the celebrations of Bin Laden's death in the street and online did raise questions in my mind. The biggest question was, "Why are all these people celebrating a death?" Now this may seem like a strange question to ask, considering what Bin Laden has done, but it is still a valid question.
Younger people have grown up with the specter of Osama Bin Laden as the proverbial "bogeyman" hiding under the bed. For them his death has to come as a relief. For older people, especially business travelers - it is also a relief of sorts, not that we can expect to see less security at airports, etc. Bureaucracies are extremely difficult to dismantle and the business of security has become a monolithic enterprise on a global scale.
That the man was evil incarnate is not something that one needs to debate - at least from where I sit. Yes there are people who may disagree with that - his supporters - but there are people out there that consider Adolph Hitler to be the greatest person the world has ever known, as well. That Bin Laden was neutralized is definitely a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
His blatant disregard for human life was abhorrent to me no matter how he and his comrades justified it. However, the same disregard for human life has also been demonstrated by Christians and Jews over the centuries. What needs to be examined is how it can be justified by people who follow a book that over and over talks about peace between peoples.
This can translate into other religions as getting rid of one's "sins", which are sometimes interpreted as that which was done to wrong or offend God.
Atheists can view the same precepts as "ethical living." The fact is that whether you are religious or not or observant or not there still exist the precepts of "right" and "wrong" or "good" and "evil" that most of us are taught as children and as we grow up.
And there's the rub - we are taught "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and yet we have armies where soldiers are trained to do just that.
We are taught to respect other people's beliefs yet right now there is a growing clamor to release photos of the dead Osama Bin Laden - although that does seem to go against religious Muslim teachings.
Fear drives our lives in so many ways and, instead of confronting it, we give into it.
In fact, in Judaism we do not celebrate the death of our opponents, but rather our deliverance from evil. This is true in the Passover Seder where we celebrate our freedom and deliverance by reciting the Ten Plagues, but do not drink a glass of wine in celebration of them.
It is true during Purim there is the commandment to drink so that you cannot tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman who wanted to kill the Jews. But that is not intended to celebrate Haman’s death. Rather we celebrate our deliverance from an evil genocidal plan.
It means not that hatred is wrong, but rather that rejoicing in the death of our opponents is wrong.
It doesn't mean that opponents like Osama Bin Laden should not be tracked down and killed, for he was evil. It does mean that we should celebrate the fact that his evil has been diminished.
The 3000 people killed on 11 September 2001 came from all nationalities and religions. The sadness of their loss will never go away although the grief at their loss will diminish over time. The effects of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City are still being felt as firefighters and police officers get sick now - almost ten years after.
The ripple effect of Bin Laden's death as the entire planet goes on high terror alert to prevent reprisal attacks will haunt us for the next several years. Yet the loss of a figurehead such as Bin Laden will also make recruiting for Al Qaeda more difficult and give us a huge opportunity to try and negate the lure of violence and terrorism - IF we can learn from it.
I remember when I worked part time for the Boy Scouts back in college as a paraprofessional. My geographic area was in a ghetto. I was required to wear a uniform. My competition were the drug dealers. I drove an old Corvair convertible. The drug dealers had fancy BMW's, Cadillac's and Mercedes. They flashed money. I didn't. Which lifestyle was more attractive to the poor kids? The same holds true for disenfranchised people that the terror organizations are trying to reach as well as to the teenagers and other young adults here in the States that they reach out to on the Internet. We do have our work cut out for us.
The chickenhawks won't help us with their "the only good Arab is a dead Arab" philosophy. People who have actually seen the results of death up close and personal because they were in a war zone understand this. Former military members who were supply clerks or never saw real "action" tend not to "get it." You will find that they are the ones who are most vocal about attacking other countries. People who have been on the front lines tend to not want to see that type of destruction unleashed unless it is absolutely necessary.
Just my 2 cents for today. I look forward to the discussion.


  1. First I forgot to say Thank You to my friends Alan and Rosemary for proofreading today's post. I was up way too late last night and, even now, looking over the entire entry realize that there was so much more I wanted to share. I'd also like to share this link that is more eloquent than what I wrote. (Thanks for this Rosemary.)
    Finally I invite you to visit Rosemary's website: and the website of Elephant Tree House Press, their publishing company:

  2. A very thought provoking post- and I agree with all you had to share, they were much of my thoughts exactly!