I found out on Sunday that Bin Laden had been killed by armed forces and I’ve been sad ever since then. Why would I be sad when he was a terrorist that is behind the 9/11 bombings, when he’s done incredibly bad things in the name of a faith that doesn’t necessarily believe those things, and when more than likely the world might be a better place without him? I’m sad because a man was killed. I’m sad because the United States celebrates a death. I’m sad because it seems like the only way our country knows how to respond to aggression is aggression in return. I’m sad because we seem to be very focused on the here and now, the four years we have a specific President, the current war we have, or whatever is in front of our faces without thinking about how our actions are going to cause waves 10, 20, 30, even 50 years down the line.
I’ve been reading many, many responses from the internet and people’s responses range from ecstatic and celebratory to somber to ambivalent. He was, after all, not that important in this day and age anymore; Osama Bin Laden was more a figurehead. He stood for an attack on the United States and the possibility of another attack, but not really much else.
The problem I have with how this was handled was that it doesn’t deflate the situation. Defeating Osama Bin Laden isn’t like defeating Hitler. The group doesn’t crumble. There will be another terrorist cell and another terrorist strike on the United States. In the almost 10 years since 9/11, we’ve surrendered our liberties, gotten into two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and become a much more scared nation of something that, statistically, has very little chance of harming or killing you.
One article that my friend linked on Facebook that I liked is called One Buddhist’s Response and is the catalyst for this post. It’s fairly close to how I feel as well, so I suggest you read it. I don’t have the answer to when it’s acceptable to kill a man, but as much as Bin Laden did to us, I don’t think this was one of those times.
There’s a quote going around the internet right now:
I will 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.
It’s attributed to Martin Luther King Jr, although really only everything past the first sentence is something he said (from Strength to Love). I still like the quote and believe in it very much. I also think of:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?
That’s from Dwight David Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953. I wonder what we’d be able to accomplish if, instead of fighting our enemies, we tried to make the world a better place. Could you imagine what would happen if we took the military budget and 100% turned it into a budget for health, knowledge, and aid? I can’t even fathom that, but I imagine it’d be a much better world than the one that we have now. I liked this section from the Buddhist response I linked to earlier, so I think I’ll end on it:
Perhaps the way to kill your enemy as a way of putting a stop to violence rather than escalating is to shift our view of “enemy” altogether. Our enemy is not one person or country or belief system. It is our unwillingness to feel the sorrow of others—who are none other than us.
So take aim at this enemy completely and precisely. Feel your sadness for us and them so fully and completely that all boundaries are dissolved and we are left standing face to face, human to human, each feeling the other’s rage and despair as our own, one world to care for.