When the news broke late Sunday night that Osama bin Laden had finally been caught and killed after a near decade-long manhunt, celebrators took to the streets in New York and Washington D.C., waving American flags, chanting "USA," and singing the National Anthem and "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." While the reaction was understandable given the indelibly tragic wound of 9/11, some question whether such a euphoric, jingoistic, even taunting reaction was appropriate. Was a more solemn response in order? (Watch a CBS report about the reaction.)
No, let them celebrate, for a moment: While I first cringed at the raucous, jubilant crowds — "remember how we all felt watching videos of those al-Qaeda guys dancing on Sept. 11?" — it's understandable that college-aged people would want to celebrate, says Petula Dvorak in The Washington Post. September 11 was a defining moment in their innocent childhoods. Now, it's as though "the biggest boogeyman" of their lives is gone, so "they deserve a night of wow, a confetti-in-the-streets moment of victory, a V-Day." But bin Laden's death doesn't change everything. "It's probably going to stay very, very complicated."
"Complications after a night of jubilation"
Yes, death, any death, shouldn't be celebrated: "Get a grip, celebrators. Have you so little decency?" asks Pamela Gerloff in The Huffington Post. Rather than taking to the streets and chanting "USA! USA!" we should be reflecting on the tragedies that led to bin Laden's death and mourning those who died pursuing him. And, there's no real closure here. "The world is not safer with Osama bin Laden's violent demise (threat levels are going up, not down), so no cause for celebration there; evil has not been finally removed from the Earth, so no reason for jubilation on that count."
"The Psychology of revenge: Why we should stop celebrating Osama Bin Laden's death"
And our callous reaction is a sign that the terrorists have won: "Somber relief," not "unbridled euphoria," is the appropriate reaction here, says David Sirota at Salon. Ironically, the zealous celebrations that greeted the news of bin Laden's death, are a symbol of his enduring, "lamentable victory." It shows how he "changed America's psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed." Our celebration should be tempered by sadness, or else we're "inadvertently letting the monsters win."
"'USA! USA!' is the wrong response"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Did the media get Ferguson wrong?
- What the Middle Ages can tell us about the GOP's big charity myth
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
- How foreign aid screwed up Liberia's ability to fight Ebola
- 10 things you need to know today: October 24, 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- America's anti-feminist mega-corporations' toxic disregard for women must stop
- Let us now praise Billy Joel
Subscribe to the Week