Why did they start dancing in the streets in Washington and New York immediately after President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a raid on his compound in Pakistan? Why did young adults in many college towns across the country pour out into the streets to celebrate on Monday as the fever spread? Was this as jarring as it seemed?
Some of us were on the fence about the immense relief…beyond description really…of so long a dry spell of despair and darkness being so suddenly and bracingly snapped with the jolt of Sunday night news flashes that bin Laden was dead. I’ve been focusing lately on the power of the message John Paul II brought to the dispirited Poles that reminded them of their human dignity and what their heritage as Christians ennobled them to do.
That message transfers well and intact to America today. In this nation too, Christianity is the dominant religion of the people, but people have been dispirited and disheartened and in need of a spark to rally the nation around ideals it seems we’ve long dropped in the politically correct halls of academia and the pages of press and very much in the press statements of politicians. Things got called by new names that didn’t really describe their reality. The ‘war on terror’ became an ‘overseas contingency operation,’ and terms like ‘enemy combatants’ were sanitized though they didn’t change and their attempted operations were stopped just short of hitting the homeland again.
Media articles have been pondering the decline of American exceptionalism, the dollar has been weakened and nothing decisive seems to be happening in Washington these days to break the general malaise.
Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, this happened.
And so the US rejoices.
After nearly a decade of anger and fear, America rejoiced Monday at the demise of Osama bin Laden, the terror mastermind behind the horrific 9/11 attacks. Navy SEALs who killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist seized a trove of al-Qaida documents to pore over, and President Barack Obama laid plans to visit New York’s ground zero.
Big media are back to calling him the terror mastermind, and the attack horrific.
Bin Laden’s death after a decade on the run unloosed a national wave of euphoria mixed with remembrance for the thousands who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Crowds celebrated throughout the night outside the White House and at ground zero in Lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Thousands of students at Penn State University and in other college towns spilled into the streets and set off firecrackers to mark the moment.
I’ve assilmilated this better now, after the initial relief mixed with dismay over some of the rhetoric about this dead man who, granted, has haunted the West and mostly America for so many years. As one priest said about what disturbed him most, “dancing in the streets over killing someone is what they do, it’s not what we do.” Right.
But I came to think about this visceral eruption of relief across America that there was finally a triumph of enormous importance for our troops, as those SEALs descended on that compound for such a daring and critical mission. It’s of enormous importance to much of the world, too.
It’s too great a leap to expect an end to terrorism or a new era of peace, but it’s not too great a hope.
[Vatican press spokesman Father Federico Lombard] reflected upon the crimes Bin Laden stood accused of.
“Osama bin Laden – as we all know – was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the end of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end.”…
“Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event is an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.”
Amen to that. Let the celebration be about a new resolve toward the tough love that’s going to require. Starting with ourselves, and our leaders who proclaim this as a new rallying call for unity.