I am writing this the morning after the death of Osama bin Laden was announced, and the morning after celebrations on campus and around the country. Although far removed from the heart of campus, sounds of cheering and celebration made it all the way to my living room. I don’t begrudge anyone a chance to deal with emotions as they come, but I do find myself in a very different place.
Bin Laden was a detestable man. I do not doubt his guilt. We are certainly more safe with him unable to influence action around the world. Nevertheless, I cannot celebrate the death of another human being – even one so terrible as bin Laden. I acknowledge that sometimes violence is unavoidable and necessary, and I do not question the motives of the servicemembers who carried out this mission. But the extralegal killings of a man, his son and three companions – no matter how horrific they were – are not something that should be celebrated in the same way that we celebrate football games. This news should not prompt the same Facebook statuses we see when someone beats a tough video game. The horrible acts these individuals carried out justify the actions ordered by the president, but they do not justify all abandonment of human decency, even if bin Laden and his followers abandoned that decency long ago.
Missing the chance to allow a legal process to run its course, and missing a chance to demonstrate our own adherence to core principles, does the entire world a disservice – a necessary disservice, almost certainly, but an opportunity lost. Blood doesn’t buy lasting peace, but patience, understanding and a commitment to a fair process do.
All of this felt forgotten last night.