American Perspectives and the Death of Osama Bin Laden

There’s something unmistakably inevitable about events like the one the U.S., and even the world, has experienced in the death of Osama bin Laden. Something that stirs emotions and resuscitates the consciousness of events that have long since passed; although the memory of these events has never died, it now seems to have, in some strange way, been given new life. Perhaps, it’s the intrinsic ability that humans possess, to connect with other human beings, especially during times of tragedy or crisis. Suddenly, the world seems a much smaller place, with lives that intertwine, no matter the physical distance, cultural differences, or language barriers. It’s India, it’s Haiti, it’s Japan, and even Libya. The crisis; the tragedy; the emotional toll; and the aftermath – we all seem to internalize, in some way, the human factor within these events.

Yet, what is even more amazing is that we all seem to be affected by these circumstances in different ways and on distinctive levels. Recent conversations and discussions have revealed this. We perceive these events from different points of view and through a different life lens. If one believed that the death of Osama bin Laden, one of the most nefarious men in the history of the world, would bring relief or closure to all Americans, especially those that were either involved directly in the 9/11 tragedy, or knew of someone who was: despite the heinousness of the act committed, this is, indeed, not the case.

Some Americans were seriously torn over the news. They oppose the idea of violence in retribution of violence. In his 1957 sermon, “Loving Your Enemies”, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expresses this same sentiment by stating that, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” And although his timeless words were erroneously intertwined with another quote recently, they went viral, nonetheless.

Yet another point-of-view reveals that others feel strongly about the celebration of retaliation against our enemies, even those that have committed heinous crimes. This perspective, expressed eloquently by 24-year old English teacher, Jessica Dovey, speaks to the heart of what some felt upon witnessing the outcry of the majority in response to the U.S. Navy SEAL raid: “I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” Dovey’s thoughts may reflect a belief that is more heavily focused on the response to an action like that which occurred on 9/11, more than the action itself. In many cases, there is an abundance of emotion attached to the reaction, and these Americans may very well agree that bin Laden’s actions were barbaric, but the question then becomes, “What should our response be?”

A number of people feel that the legacy of bin Laden has been, systematically, bequeathed through the undertakings of the U.S. and many other countries worldwide, as we have adopted an attitude of violence and defensiveness that should be uncharacteristic of our great nation. Kai Wright, writer for “In These Times”, argues that two wars, racial profiling of Muslim Americans and a broken immigration system “turned into an arm of national defense” does not make a nation great. In response to President Obama’s speech following the death of Osama bin Laden, he pens, “And yet, the Nobel Peace Prize winner can fix his mouth to say that killing a man on the other side of the globe provides proof of America’s exceptionalism.”

The, seemingly, prevalent response to bin Laden’s death is best put in terms articulated here by The New York Daily News: “It’s a psychological victory for a country in desperate need of good news.” Many in our country are touting the phrase “proud to be an American” in conjunction with the sentiment that “there is justice in the world.” It was, undoubtedly, one of the few ‘stop and watch’ moments that we rarely catch a glimpse of, as the world stood captivated by the news of bin Laden’s death.

Some argue, that the news of bin Laden’s death speaks to the unsuccessful 1980 U.S. raid of Iran, where eight soldiers died in an attempt to rescue American diplomats. It calls into account the tragedy on September 11th that was witnessed, almost simultaneously, in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Its encompasses a seven year-long war in Iraq and 10 years of unyielding combat in Afghanistan. It, undoubtedly, undercuts the ideology of al -Qaeda and the growing tide of Islamic extremist groups sprouting up in countries all across the globe. As Afghan President Hamid Karzai says, bin Laden’s death is “a serious blow to terrorism”. It’s a sense of relief or closure and a feeling of, justifiably, wanting to just “move on”. A few Americans even expressed the hope that the victims of 9/11 can now ‘rest in peace’.

Whether one heralds the “victory” of the U.S. or stands firm on the belief that the death of one’s enemy does not make a nation great; the demise of Osama bin Laden, has, ironically, brought together the ties that bind us as Americans and even beyond. It’s rare moments like these that make us stop, if only for a moment, and realize that, on one level or another, we are all simply human beings.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Luther King, Jr., Wikiquote.

Alexis Madrigal, “The (Shy) Woman Whose Words Accidently Became Martin Luther King’s”, The Atlantic.

Kai Wright, “The Ability to Kill Osama Bin Laden Does Not Make America Great”, In These Times.

Thomas M. Defrank, “Osama Bin Laden’s Death is huge political victory for President Obama and great moment for U.S.”, NYDailyNews.com.

Ed Pilkington, Declan Walsh, Saeed Shah, “Obama: Bin Laden raid was longest 40 minutes of my life.”, guardian.co.uk.

Shah Marai, “Osama Bin Laden dead: The reaction in the U.S. and beyond.”, NYDailyNews.com.