In the same weekend a pope made his way to sainthood, the CIA’s most wanted man was found and killed. President Obama announced that “justice has been done” as thousands celebrate Osama bin Laden’s demise.
Since it was a school night during “finals month” I had been working on a paper until bedtime yesterday and heard the news while I was somewhere between here and the Land of Nod. I muttered something like “finally” and fell back asleep. As I ate cereal this morning I read accounts of celebrations at ground zero and in front of the White House. Today’s Daily Texan includes a front-page photograph of jubilant young men draped in American flags, happily drinking beer. Had it not been for the headline, you’d think the U.S. men’s soccer team had just won the World Cup.
I am not jubilant. For starters, I’m a pacifist. On days like today I remember Mahatma Gandhi’s simple yet powerful message: “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” I’m all together uncomfortable with celebrating anyone’s death and don’t think such displays honor the victims we tragically lost because of this man’s madness. Moreover, I fear the inevitable backlash that is imminent. Yet, I knew this day would come and knew things would end this way. After Saddam Hussein was captured, he went to trial. I would’ve appreciated a legal process to discredit bin Laden — the last thing we need is a martyr among al-Qaeda. But I wasn’t there. The circumstances may not have allowed for handcuffing, a reading of the Geneva Conventions, etc.
Though “justice” has arrived, I feel uneasy. The last time I felt this way was the afternoon of September 11, 2001. I had begun my year-long study abroad program in Sevilla less than a week before. My roommate called me as I was riding a taxi back to our apartment. “The U.S. is being attacked,” she said. We watched the entire day’s events unfold on television utterly bewildered. We were so far from home. in the weeks, months, and years that have followed other emotions have emerged such as anger and frustration. And in the wake of today, it’s fear for the future as we all become more mired in a war without end.