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Debate: Is it appropriate to rejoice at Osama bin Laden's death?

May 2, 2011 |  1:15 pm

Celebration

That may be the question Katy Perry asked herself after tweeting her knee-jerk reaction to Sunday  night's news by paraphrasing from "Team America":

@katyperry:AMERICA F*** YEAH, HERE TO SAVE THE MOTHER F***IN DAY YEAH! #necessaryusageoftheFbombday

Because she then reversed course with a more sober tweet:

@katyperry:I believe in justice... but don't u think that an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind? :( #revolutioncomesthroughlove #worldpeace

It's not hard to see why. As we processed the news that the world's most wanted terrorist, the leader of Al Qaeda, had been killed by American forces, people took to the streets and their Facebook pages with uninhibited emotion and raw feelings of patriotism (not to mention a heavy handed application of red-white-and-blue face paint) that, as the night went on, seemed to turn the mood from joyous to vulgar.

Here, the case for and against celebrating Osama bin Laden's death:

Universal grounds for the crowd's joy

While I was satisfied with the universal grounds for the joy of the crowd, I confess that I was not desperately seeking it. The explosion of patriotism in Lafayette Park seemed to me also like a moral expression. For one thing, I was surprised, and delighted in a dark way, to discover that the wound of September 11 was still so fresh, not least for people who were young when the attack occurred: the pressures of American materialism, and of the manic American way of life, upon American collective memory are immense, and not even the two wars that we are fighting abroad, both of them legacies of September 11, seem to have focused American attention for very long on the principles of our conflict with medievalist tyranny. Bin Laden himself no longer posed the threat that a decade ago he did; he was  now mainly a symbol of his evil, a figure whose power was chiefly mythic. But symbols and myths are also real, and the revelers in Lafayette Park had not forgotten the atrocity of a decade ago; and they knew, too, that, whatever the deterrent effect of bin Laden’s destruction, justice had been done. The operation in Abbottabad was an act of revenge, certainly; but no mob had ever appeared at the gates of the White House calling for such revenge. It came only to affirm it when it was done. “Osama bin Gotten,” as one sign said. The kids last night were not bloodthirsty. They were merely aware that we have enemies. There was nothing awry with their feeling that the enemy of their country was their enemy, too.

--Leon Wieseltier, the New Republic

The jubilation seems a vulgar and shortsighted

It felt a little crazy, a bit much. Almost vulgar.

Because meanwhile, across the river, at the Pentagon, in the ghostly quiet of lights at the Sept. 11, 2001, memorial, a military veteran silently wept.

And many others cried, too, sickened by the death toll, the enormity of almost 10 years of fear, death and terror.

The death of bin Laden will be a grief-tinged, complicated event for many Americans. I immediately saw the mixed reactions of my peers on Twitter and Facebook. Folks who lost close friends or family in the Sept. 11 attacks orchestrated by bin Laden or the War on Terror that followed had a rush of new emotions and raw pain at the news of even more bloodshed.

Is it over? Everything better now that they got him? Not really.

When I saw that folks were celebrating in the streets at the news of bin Laden’s death, my first reaction was a cringe. Remember how we all felt watching videos of those al-Qaeda guys dancing on Sept. 11?

Are we simply creating star-spangled recruitment tapes for a new generation of terrorists killing in the name of their new martyr?

 --Petula Dvorak, Washington Post

We should enjoy this moment of unity

[I]t carries the potential to rekindle the faith and unity that Americans felt in the first months after the 9/11 attacks. This time, however, the unity isn't one of shock or fear, but of joy and newfound confidence. A nation that despaired of any clear victories, of any unclouded outcomes, from its years of war, can now celebrate a singular triumph. A nation that debated, and will continue to debate, the effectiveness of military force and the reliability of overseas intelligence, can now join in praise of an intelligence success and a military triumph.

--Boston Globe editorial

"USA! USA!" is the wrong response

This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory: He has changed America's psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he's helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history -- the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed. […]

When we lose the sadness part -- when all we do is happily scream "USA! USA! USA!” at news of yet more killing in a now unending back-and-forth war -- it's a sign we may be inadvertently letting the monsters win.

--David Sirota, Salon

RELATED:

Editorial: The world is better and safer for bin Laden's death

The conversation: Reactions to bin Laden's death

Gregory Rodriguez from ground zero: America reboots

Is it appropriate to rejoice at Osama bin Laden's death?

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery / Abaca Press / MCT

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