Osama Bin Laden and 9/11: Choosing Love

September 11, 2001.  As I rushed to catch the bus to campus, I noticed a strange news story on my computer – a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  The photo accompanying the story made the crash seem small, so besides the uniqueness of the event, I thought little of it.  By the time I got to school, it was obvious something was up.  Imagine hundreds and hundreds of students crowding around monitors outside of major buildings in the largest university in America.  By the end of my first class, I’d heard all the news and saw classmates hurriedly call to loved ones and saw one friend rush out of the classroom in tears.

That day marked the beginning of a new era.  My birth year (1981) is often included (and often not) in the almost-arbitrary moniker, “Generation X.”  Writers and other media members have grappled to find a term to define the generation following it, mostly to cash in on the previous name’s popularity.  I’m not sure what it would best be called, but as the years pass by, it seems more and more assuredly to be defined by that one morning and all the events that transpired because of it.  The U.S. (and much of the world’s) economy has been in recession since that time.  We live in an age where the average American is more globally aware and when it seems everything has some international connection.  Elementary-aged children have never lived in a time when we weren’t at war.  Times have changed.

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And so, the events of May 1, when Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. Navy Seals, is a major milestone in this new age.  The man who I think most of us thought would never be caught was brought to harsh justice.  Thousands of lives were on his head, and he paid what feels like an almost-too-easy price for his horrid actions.

Yesterday and today, spontaneous celebrations have occurred throughout the U.S., from Ground Zero to baseball stadiums.  And one doesn’t have to go a stone’s throw – literally or via media – to hear laughter, smack, and howls of vengeful mocking directed at Bin Laden, terrorist groups, or even entire people groups and nations.

Some will say that we should act that way – after all, many of us remember the celebrations that occurred in the Middle East when the towers fell.  And why not show a brash sort of patriotism for our country?  In an age where patriotism has become an ugly word, it’s events like these that perhaps make it okay to be American again.  I can understand this sentiment – I come from three generations of military veterans; among them are my dad, who served during a war in the Middle East, and my grandfather, who was involved in the operation to clean up Nagasaki after the A-Bomb.

Jubilation is a natural reaction – I felt some of that, along mostly with wonderment.  But if that’s all we feel (and certainly if we advance that to the “in your face” reactions I described above), I think we miss the point.

The death of Bin Laden adds an exclamation point, if not a final chapter, to a story that many were directly a part of.  It most directly impacts, emotionally, those who lost loved ones on 9/11 or in its aftermath.

Today is a time to reflect on what happened during that tragic morning.  Today, we should remember the innocents who died that day – fathers, mothers, children, heroes.  Now is the time to remember the firefighters and other public servants who fell to save their fellow man.  Now is the time to remember those who bravely saved perhaps hundreds more by taking back United Flight 93.  Now is the time to remember that so many are still hurting – wives without husbands; sons without fathers; mothers without children.

In one moment in time, most of this country came together in a spirit of love and cooperation.  Now, it seems we’re more fragmented than ever, along political, social, and cultural lines.  We’re particularly split when it comes to religion – everyday I see this through this blog, twitter, Yahoo! Answers, and the forums at MAL and Anime Planet.  But for a moment in time, I hope that instead of further fragmenting, a news story will help to join us again.  Let’s remember what’s important in life.  Let’s come together in compassion, empathy, understanding, and love.  Let’s be open to one another, forgetting the schisms caused by political views, sexual orientation, race, and creed, to pass on grace rather than bitterness.  Let’s engage in discussion rather than engage in arguments.

Forget your prejudice.  Leave behind your anger.  Be open.  Be hopeful.  Be love.

Where were you on 9/11?  Has it had a personal impact on you?  How did you feel when you heard the news about Bin Laden?  What will you do to be more loving?

16 thoughts on “Osama Bin Laden and 9/11: Choosing Love

  1. I saw a number of pictures of people confusing Obama and Osama, but it wasn’t until I read the New York Times snippet in my RSS reader that I understood what was going on:

    President Obama said Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight during a “targeted operation” that Mr. Obama ordered in Pakistan. He was later buried at sea.

    How did I feel? I felt like we were being duped … again. Buried at sea? Are you kidding me? How very convenient.

    I feel like these guys just decided to call it quits, so they manufactured a story of a Bin Laden corpse.

    I do have some hopes that perhaps we will stop sending our men and women overseas to kill and die.

    We’ve built a number of hardened military bases on foreign soil. I strongly doubt those will be sold off or abandoned. We will maintain a strong military presence where those bases exist.

    Will we get rid of the oppression of the TSA and DHS now? Freedoms, once restricted, are rarely returned. In fact, they’re probably going to be tightened to “thwart retaliation”.

    1. Well, first of all, as soon as I saw your opening words I thought for a moment that I’d written “Obama” instead of “Osama” somewhere…whew, fau paux averted. 😛

      I guess I’m not so skeptical as you, even though we have good reason to be. After all, there are a lot of reasons to avoid photographing bin Laden’s corpse or otherwise displaying it for the world to see (as much reason as to manufacture this story, too, I suppose).

      I sense there’s a tide turning in the world regarding our military bases – particularly with us pulling out of Iraq and with all the help the army provided in Japan (which, even more so than nearby Korea, has long wanted us out or at least further reduced). I think that this administration has achieved, at some level, the goal of the U.S. being seen less as foreign occupiers and bullies, so I would guess that your prediction about military presence is correct.

      1. I wonder about that. While we’re pulling out of Iraq, we’ve become deeper involved in Afghanistan, we had taken a short but fairly prominent role in Libya, have been engaging in covert actions in Yemen, and no doubt Pakistan will now fall under our thumb, seeing as how Osama was found in a relatively well-connected, trafficked area.

        I’m a little torn by our reaction though. While it’s a good thing that Osama is dead, cheering it when considering the costs it wrought – in addition to the thousands that died in the Twin Towers, but the thousands of soldiers that lost their lives, the trillions of dollars that were spent – the “USA!” chants seem a bit much and inappropriate. The dead are still dead, the threats still exist, and the cost for removing the figurehead too high.

        Additionally, I don’t think it paints a very good picture of us when we think back on the TV footage of muslims cheering the original 9/11 attack. It’s just an ugly cycle of violence and gleeful cheering of violence. In our defense, we say this is justice. But this was as much revenge as justice. Which is partially the reason behind the 9/11 attacks – due to the innocent muslim deaths we’ve caused with our occupations and military actions.

        1. Oh yes, Libya. I’m always torn – I understand it’s very out of place for us to act as the morality police in the world, but I also feel a tugging at my heart that says we should help the suffering. An imperfect middle ground is to leave things up to a UN coalition – but even then, as is being proven in Libya, things get sticky. I just wish Gadhafi would leave…certainly the death of a son and grandson would be enough!

          You bring up another good point about revenge and justice. We keep calling this justice – and it is. But the celebrations look like revenge, maybe particularly through the lenses of those in the Middle East. It may be more fuel for the fire, even if the celebrations are innocent (I haven’t been part of any and I don’t know the tone of these festivities). In this interconnected world, anything can be used for vile purposes. I wonder if these videos will be used as motivation to raise a new generation of terrorists.

  2. I still have seen no hard evidence linking Osama Bin Laden to 9/11. Even OBL’s FBI profile doesn’t mention 9/11. I also think it’s pretty disgusting to celebrate at anyone’s death in the way that people are doing.

    People really love a game of heroes and villains as if the world is that simple.

    1. I’m not sure how cut and dry it is in celebrating someone’s death – after all, I was never directly effected by 9/11. I’m sure I’d have very strong emotions if a loved one was killed in the attacks or in the war.

      Regardless, I hope the death brings some closure to many and that people elect to revel in something other than vengeance.

    2. If you really haven’t seen any “hard evidence,” you might start with the video tape of bin Laden talking with his pals about how he ordered it and how great it all turned out.

  3. Wonderful post!

    I started to reply earlier, but the questions at the end got me typing… and typing… so I’ll give a really short version of my response: I’m glad for a victory and hope it gives some feeling of closure to those who lost loved ones in 9/11 and its aftermath, but I can’t say I’ve felt celebratory.

    When you emphasized that elementary aged children have never lived in a time when we weren’t at war, I thought of some of my younger cousins. Some of them are about the same age I was on 9/11. I think that was the first awareness I ever had of anything that required government action – really, my first awareness of any modern event outside of my family and friends.

    1. Absolutely it’s a big victory. It’s such a big deal, though I’m surprised that with the way people feel about government, country, and the war, that this event is as big as it has been. But I’m surprised in a good way.

      I think we all have a milestone that like in our lives. For me, it was the fall of the Berlin Wall. I’d lived in Germany until Christmas of ’88, and the wall fell the next year, so it was very pertinent to me as a child (I’m showing my age!).

  4. Where was I on 9/11 all these years ago?

    I was home, enjoying my extra one hour before class as it was a Wednesday, a day when my elementary school starts lessons for Grade six students at 9:30 AM. My best friend at that time phoned me, urging me to turn on the TV. I saw the towers, but I failed to understand its significance. When I arrived at school, I felt the solemnity, but I did not feel the true impact. Only after two days, I finally felt it. I was reading the story of one men who died in the towers. Then I realized that these numbers that appear on the TV screen — They are not statistics anymore. Each one of them have of a touching story.

    I think it is time to join together again. I am a Canadian, and my view is rose-coloured as such. However, I would like to think that dialogue and negotiation would be helpful at this stage, where terrorists continue to arise and armed interventions are ineffective to curbing them. At the same time, many of the extremists are not willing to compromise their goal, the complete destruction of western countries. Perhaps, then, the dialogue should be with Islamic leaders to encourage moderates and hold candid discussion with extremists.

    This reminds me, funny enough, of whether Christian churches should use ecclesiastical courts/exo-communication to stamp out extremism. Extremism is also a problem in Christian churches, with the religious right clamoring for many things Jesus may not stand for. The religious left may do the same. While it is great to give everyone religious freedom, the entire religion will be smeared if extremist groups commits atrocities like 9/11.

    Now I should stop randomly musing to distract myself from the disappointing Canadian election results.

    1. Thanks for the comments. You make a really important point – the people are more than just numbers. We all realize that, but whenever we’re given statistics (particularly shocking or jarring ones, like the number of deaths that day), we dehumanize the event. I remember coming back to school after the tsunami in south/southeast Asia (I was teaching), and telling the students the numbers of that died from that disaster. I was trying to help them understand how massive that event was (many hadn’t even heard it happened), but at the same time I dehumanized it.

      I think good dialogue is probably impossible with “extremist” Islamic leaders because of their goals. It’s like trying to sit down and have peace with someone that only wants to kill you – what reason do they have for sitting down?

      And I’m glad you also brought up the extremism in Christian churches. Luckily, I think a lot of the major Protestant voices today are focusing on reaching out through love, instead of being part of an agenda. Yet, major voices (and loud ones) continue to paint a picture a negative picture of Christianity.

  5. I was shocked and satisfied when I turned on the T.V. last night, I thought catching OBL had become a longlost, now seemingly irrelevant, dream. But at the same time I felt apprehensive and not exactly celebratory.
    I mean, this victory may or may not be a major blow to terrorist organizations so it may or may not prove to be turning point for future counter-terror efforts, but it certainly doesn’t seem to make 9/11 and the post-9/11 era any less twisted, tragic, and confusing. It feels, in a literal way, a little like just another violent death. That’s why I don’t feel celebratory. I feel apprehensive for a few reasons. Perhaps the most immediate concern is that of retaliation; it’s particularly unnerving that this took place the same day that Al Quaeda released a “press release” for their Spring offensive. I pray that the more humane steps we took in the situation (such as giving him a quick, proper, Islamic burial) may limit such retaliation. I also worry about how the U.S. will use this victory. Now I’m sure many, many fellow Americans who trust Christ will disagree with me (perhaps less in this online environment though), but I hope we use this as an excuse to depart from the imperialism prevalent in the U.S.’s recent dealings and as a chance to remove neoconservatism from right-wing politics, viewing it as a completed goal of sorts by which we justify relaxing foreign presence. That would be ideal to me; I think the worst case scenario though would be to say: “Hey, see? It all paid off, we killed OBL. That proves our current course of action works. If we keep it up we’ll eliminate the rest,” ignoring that this victory was a result of intelligence gathering and precision and not brute force. I can understand why Christians may disagree with me though, I used to feel the same way.
    I’m sorry for bringing up something divisive, exactly what you told us not to do, but I really feel compelled to share my hopes for the future and what I feel we can make of OBL’s defeat. I’ll be praying for the future, for the 9/11 victims’ and fallen soldiers’ families and for the people in these war torn countries, and I’m sure many of you will to.

    1. Adam, I don’t think your words are necessarily divisive – in fact, this is the kind of commentary I hope for. We’re going to disagree about what methods we should use, but I think the goal is clear – peace is what we want.

      You’re right in saying it’s too early to tell what the effects will be of this death – positive and negative. I was telling my wife last night that I found is ignorant that a local news broadcast referred to the death as a “turning point” (really?! you can already say that? aren’t those words better suited when looking at an historic event?). We’ll see where this goes, though I imagine that as some analysts said, the retaliatory threat is more from homegrown terrorists than from those reared abroad. Frankly, my fears are more set on the Olympics next year than anything domestic.

      Thanks again for the comments. And thanks for emphasizing the need for prayer.

      1. I hadn’t really thought of the London Olympics in the context of terrorist opportunities. It seems like it would be a pretty ideal target for extremists, sadly Munich certainly ended up so. That said, I’m sure that security for the events will be very comprehensive and intricate. The type of thing that really downs me is when nukes and bio weapons start being discussed. From what I understand about the process of creating such things, it really doesn’t seem highly inconceivable that a particularly driven and wealthy group could get ahold of or develop a very basic unit (certainly not any type of missile or anything though). I think we’re very lucky none of these groups are particularly healthy financially right now.

        Also, I’m glad what I said didn’t seem as divisive as I sort of worried before. Looking back now, I guess I was rather non-specific. In a way though, that non-specification is representative of how I feel. I certainly take major issue with aspects of U.S. foreign policy, but I’m not denying the need for SOME of the military action taken in the last decade.

  6. Well, starting with your question about 9/11, I was very young, And I din’t know the Two Towers existed untill they fell. All I really knew was that something big and bad had happened. I’m Canadian, so it just didn’t have as big an impact
    While I am Glad that ‘Bin Laden can’t cause any trouble anymore, I don’t think it’s the end. How can you be so sure that someone else, perhaps even more evil, will rise to his place? And Also, As a Christian, I find it hard to celebrate the eternal damnation of anyone,. I mean sure, he deserved it, but don’t we all? One of my biggest fears is that my un-saved friends will die without becoming saved. Then they’ll probably end up going to the exact same place he’s going. And it will probably be my fault, too, because I was too scared to witness.

    1. Thanks for the comment. You bring up an excellent point about how we should perhaps feel as Christians. And you also bring up a typical fear about evangelism. I think we all need to understand that it’s Christ that works through us – the burden isn’t upon us to try to convert. However, in my own life as well as most, it still remains difficult to talk to others about Christ.

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