Have you cheered the death of Osama Bin Laden? His death is a singularly cathartic time for Americans. Is a more profound human cheering at play?
I joined the cheering as I sat riveted by the TV images of crowds spontaneously gathering at the White House and Ground Zero when Bin Laden’s death was announced. I too wanted to wave my American flag.
Was I doing the unimaginable and rejoicing in the death of another human being? I am at the very least thankful to know that he is dead. I have gratitude for the calm precision and leadership of President Obama and those Navy Seals. Some may be choosing triumphalist cheering. My own desire to cheer is born out of relief. But relief to what end?
The face of fear represented by Bin Laden is gone. It is like knowing that a mass murderer on the loose in your city has been apprehended or that the sexual predator who has abused you is behind bars. Fear of imminent abusive assault diminishes when the threat is removed.
Does our national cheering reveal more about the fears that have lurked in our collective psyche since 9/11 than a desire for blood sports? As relief settles in questions about what we are relieved about will present themselves. Is there common ground to be appreciated in the human yearning for well-being and security?
In places like Spain, Britain, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East Bin Laden’s disciples have inflicted terror on tens of thousands. In the aftermath of 9/11 every person in the world was an American in the empathy directed toward us as we reeled from the attacks in DC, Pennsylvania and New York. That empathy had dissipated by the time we declared war on Iraq.
The Bin Laden franchise operators will attempt to wreak havoc wherever and whenever they can. A new opportunity presents itself in the collective global relief of knowing that the face of fear represented by Bin Laden is gone. It is an opportunity to rebuild the common human bonds among those who make no peace with terror by pursuing security and well-being for all. The empathy that existed after 9/11 is an empathy that lingers within people of good will.
The bridge to this new opportunity exists when our cheering is not for ourselves alone, but a cheering for the human family.
The cynical will say that political and military leaders cannot deliver on such a hope or promise. Such a response creates a new face of paralyzing fears. We have learned from the people of Middle Eastern countries over the last few months that the human yearning to be free of fear and violence can never be squashed.
Deftly mobilizing the power of social media they have taught us that the human yearnings which unite us are in our hands. Bin Laden’s acts of terror and sowing of fear were designed to alienate the human family from one another. If we embrace the opportunity that his death as unleashed it will the human family rejecting fear and insecurity through proactively seeking the well-being and security of one another.
Our American cheering is a visceral reaction – it is real and freeing. Its lasting value will be in our connecting it to the cheering on of the human family’s yearning for freedom from fear.
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