I must admit to feeling at once relieved, inspired, and disturbed by news of Osama Bin Laden’s death last night. I saw the images of crowds celebrating outside the White House, heard some fireworks and sirens joining the celebratory chorus nearby, and watched as a student walked past my window on campus, playing the bagpipes. I found myself laughing uncomfortably. Clearly, I didn’t know how to feel.
Yesterday, interestingly, had begun with me questioning, in response to a New York Times article announcing the death of Gaddafi’s son and grandchildren: Is this article suggesting I should be happy at this news? I was disturbed at the thought of celebrating anyone’s killing. The same question came back to me again shortly before midnight as I listened to the President speak in ways that inspired in me a sense of pride. When he referred to Bin Laden as a “mass murderer,” I was kind of shocked by the words, but also had to acknowledge their truth. Later, someone being interviewed said, claiming he was not only speaking for himself, but for many: “I hope he rots in Hell.” Despite my mixed feelings about the matter, I resented the fact that this man might think he was speaking for me. No matter my relief at an evil man being prevented from doing further evil, I realized at least that I could not bring myself to wish this for him, or anybody.
As for me, I’ll add to what I’ve said above something I wrote for America Magazine almost nine years ago in their “Of Many Things” column about my challenges teaching CCD in the Bronx that year. Here’s an excerpt:
One day, for instance, they were challenged by the notion that God loves us, whether we want God to or not. Can’t God, some of them suggested, choose who to love and who not to? No, I insisted, God cannot not love any person; God loves everyone, unconditionally. To this came the astute and timely response of one student: “Does that mean God loves Osama bin Laden?”
Read the whole article here.