Sunday, May 8, 2011

Should you celebrate when your enemy dies?

There was a lot of news earlier this week when it was announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan. The saturation news coverage was almost constant for a couple of days.

We had a long discussion about it during our dharma class this week. We were all upset with the images we saw on TV of people celebrating in the streets in New York and Washington. There is no doubt that bin Laden was going to continue killing people. He was like a rabid animal that presented a clear danger and he had to be stopped. His killing should give people a sense of relief. It should not be cause for celebration.

One person in our group made a comment about bin Laden being such a madman that he had to die. I strongly disagree with that characterization. He was not mad in the sense of being insane. He was a very intelligent and capable man. However, his values were so different from ours that people didn't understand him and called him mad.

Don't get me wrong. I am not condoning anything bin Laden did. I am simply saying that we should not celebrate when a man dies. If we do celebrate, how are we better that the people that celebrated in the streets after the attacks of 9/11? Do you remember seeing that on TV? How did that make you feel?

Someone else made a comment about how she wished that we could prevent people from going so wrong. Unfortunately, we don't live in a world of wishes and make-believe. We live in the world as it truly exists now. Nicole commented that it seems that the military operation that killed bin Laden did the most good with the least harm.

That's a meaningful thought. Osama bin Laden was alive on April 30 and was plotting attacks against the West. What is the best thing that can be done with the least harm under those circumstances? In this case, they went in and killed him. They treated his body with respect and buried him at sea. He was buried with respect to Muslim tradition. His body was placed somewhere where it could not become part of a shrine.

In fact, the Dalai Lama himself suggested that the killing was appropriate. He said, "Forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened. ... If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures."

We all feel somewhat helpless when the world events overwhelm us. It's hard to imagine how we can have any way to make things better. Steve suggested that we think of this as our opportunity to plant seeds. We need to think of ways that we can influence one person, one situation, one life. The ripples spread out from that. Here is a seed. Please, think before you act.

For the Christians among my readers,
Proverbs 24:17-20 (New American Standard Bible)
17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18 Or the LORD will see it and be displeased,
And turn His anger away from him.
19 Do not fret because of evildoers
Or be envious of the wicked;
20 For there will be no future for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.

For the Jews among my readers,
After the Children of Israel passed through the Red Sea and the waters closed in on Pharaoh's armies, the angels began to sing the Song of the Sea to praise God. God rebuked the angels, saying "My creatures are drowning in the sea and you are singing praise?" (Megillah 10b and Sanhedrin 39b.)

For those who have no religious leanings,
We failed to stop the attacks of 9/11. We failed to stop the attacks of 3/11 on the Spanish trains. We failed to stop the attacks of 7/7 on the London subway. We failed to stop the terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Africa. There are still active, capable members of al Qeada that are making plans to attack us. And you want to celebrate? You want to inflame moderate Muslims around the world? Stop and think. Don't do it.

© 2011 Eric Borreson