Today, people all over the United States are literally dancing in the streets because the hated Osama bin Laden has been assassinated by the United States military.
His act of terror, which destroyed so many lives and changed the world forever, has now been avenged. The audacity of this one man was an affront from the beginning; the fact that he and his cohorts were able to do what they did and cause so much pain has been a gaping wound for Americans. His periodic videotapes were maddening, seemingly rubbing his “power” in the faces of those he hated. So, when he was reported assassinated, nobody wept in sorrow.
But we have to be careful, and I hope we can use this as a “teachable moment” to understand something critical about human behavior. First, the careful part: Gloating and dancing in the streets is not a good way to live once someone hated or disliked has been “taken out.” I remember when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and some of the white people in my city danced and said, “good!” We, Americans, didn’t like it when we saw people dancing in their streets when the World Trade Center buildings came down. Not even sports teams allow the winner to gloat in front of the team they’ve beat. It is behavior unbecoming to an American. It feeds those who already hate us, who think that we are arrogant and selfish and self-serving. We have a right to be happy that bin Laden is gone, but gloating is not good.
Second: the education. Whenever people have been wronged, or think they have been wronged, they feel vindication when it seems the chips are on their side. If we go back to the infamous O.J. Simpson trial, black people were glad — no, elated — when the verdict came down because it seemed that the justice system had finally worked for them. For years it had been the case (and still is) that the justice system was skewed against black people, sending blacks to prison even in the midst of compelling evidence as to innocence. Not even the United States Supreme Court, historically, has ruled in favor of black people, so when that verdict came down, it was a gut reaction to a long-held hurt and sense of betrayal of the United States government and justice system. I am not sure that everyone who applauded the verdict believed Simpson was innocent, but they were glad that apparent evidence that pointed to his possible innocence had not been ignored. When people, during the 2008 presidential election, saw black people in Jeremiah Wright’s church “applaud” as they listened to him talk about the injustice of America’s government, they were offended, called Wright a racist, and shrank in sheer horror that black people could applaud “racist” and “hateful” speech. Wright’s words were neither, but were rather a statement of the reality of life black people have lived in this country, an affirmation that what they have felt was and is valid.
It is a fact that since September 11, 2001, Americans have been seething. We have been hurt and insulted and angry and we have wanted justice – i.e., we have wanted bin Laden to hurt, and hurt badly, for what he did to us. We have wanted revenge, this, in spite of our religious instruction which admonishes us not to seek vengeance and which reminds us that God says vengeance is his. Well, so be it. We see this assassination of bin Laden as God working on our behalf, and we are glad about it and we are not shy about making our feelings known …I, too, am glad he was found. I am glad…
But we need to think about ourselves as Americans who believe in God, and think about behavior “becoming to an American,” and also use this as a teachable moment, as we look at our own behavior, and see that what any human being does when he or she feels vindicated, is applaud the breakthrough. Americans (and probably some Muslims as well) are doing that now; African Americans have done it as well, and it means nothing more than people like to get a couple of points on the board when they feel life has beat them down.
Just a candid observation…