I am reluctant to come even near this topic because I think it has received far too much attention. The topic: the death of Osama Bin Laden. What interests me is the reaction to his death.
That reaction can best be described as “hand wringing” – and it is on display everywhere.
Two periodicals I read regularly, Christianity Today and the Christian Standard were nearly worried sick over the fact that someone might gloat over Bin Laden’s death. At church this past Sunday the minister had written his weekly article about something related to Bin Laden, and even the communion meditation was most about the death of Bin Laden – and all with at least a little worry and a hint of guilt about the possibility that someone might rejoice at Bin Laden’s death.
And this fretting was not limited to Christian publications or other public forums. The whole country seemed almost phobic at the thought of someone celebrating the death of Bin Laden. Even our current President – whose last name was unfortunately often mistakenly inserted in place of Bin Laden’s first name in reports of the death – was careful to remind us that we should not rejoice over this death.
So I went poking around cyber space looking for contemporary reactions to the death of Adolph Hitler. Here are some samples:
“Mussolini is dead, Hitler is dead – but what’s the difference? There are lots more.”
“Why waste words on Hitler?”
“I wish I was the guy who killed him. I’d killed him a little slower. Awful slow.”
“Yeah, I guess he’s dead. But so are a lot of good guys. And you just remember that.”
Without necessarily endorsing anything said about Hitler, I still must ask: what has happened to us since 1945?
For one thing, those people as a group are not “us.” They are or were our parents or grandparents. They seemed to have a very different way of thinking about bad guys than we do. We tend to think that bad guys are bad mostly because of something bad we have done to them. Our forebears did not tend to agree.
I am not about to throw a “Ding dong, the Bin Laden is dead” party. But I don’t feel bad that he is dead. Instead, I am a bit relieved.
But I still have to ask: Why the difference from the reactions to the death of Hitler? Was it because Hitler was responsible for the death of millions of innocent people while Bin Laden was only responsible for thousands of innocent people? Did Bin Laden simply not hit some modern psychological threshold of innocent deaths that would qualify him for our unqualified collective scorn?
I don’t know. I think we just might have become weenies, but of course that is not at all insightful. But I will admit to some degree of agreement with some of those sentiments from 1945, and would reword them thus:
Bin Laden is dead - but what’s the difference? There are lots more.
Why waste words on Bin Laden?
Bin Laden is dead. But so are a lot of good guys. And you just remember that.