American in Spain

Ugly Vengeance

May 2, 2011

Celebrations outside White HouseI woke up this morning to the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US troops in Pakistan. I turned on the news and found a bunch of non-journalism time-filling fluff with a pretty Spanish woman with a microphone going around Madrid asking passersby for their opinion on the news. I turned to the internet and learned that there were parties in front of the White House and Ground Zero with mobs of Americans shouting "USA! USA!" and waving flags. My Facebook feed was full of comments like "From now on, May 1st will be known as Vengeance Day!! Booyaah!" Later, when I went to the local grocery store, where I am known for my nationality, I was greeted with salutations of "Congratulations!" Call me a bleeding heart Liberal, but there's something about a mass celebration of a human death that makes me feel more than a little queasy. Is Humanity better off without that one particular individual? Sure. Was he my generation's Hitler? Hardly. There are people, some that I know personally (not you, dear reader!), for whom I have such distaste, that their deaths would be met with less sorrow on my part than that of a stranger killed by a tornado or tsunami. That's as close as I've come to hatred. Bin Laden was on that list, for sure, alphabetically right before Dick Cheney.

But doesn't dancing in the street over someone's death make us no better than the Muslims who danced in the street on 9/11? Granted, they killed innocents and we killed one guilty (lots of evidence, but no trial) individual and four other people, the innocence of whom is unknown...ignoring, conveniently, the hundreds – or thousands? – of people killed to get to within bullet range of Bin Laden. Do we think that they won't feel the same even-if-it-takes-ten-years vengeance that we felt? What ever happened to "turn the other cheek"?

The proper response to Osama's death is a sigh of relief, that his genius – and it took genius to pull off 9/11 – will never again be used against us. But I feel shame for the level of jubilation shown by my countrymen. You disappoint me. I thought we were better than this.