Late Sunday night, May 1st 2011, President Barack Obama announced that the terrorist Osama Bin Laden was dead. Nine and a half years after the single worst assault on American soil, the architect of this devastation has at long last paid for his crimes. The nation let go of a breath it forgot it was holding, sighing “Finally.”
Over the next several days, I imagine there will be stories that lay out in detail the mission that took out Bin Laden. There will be projections of how al-Qaeda might respond (and more on that below). There may be medals for the soldiers that carried out their now-infamous work. There will be interviews with families of the victims of 9/11 as the country experiences some overdue catharsis, either personally or vicariously.
That’s what I want to address here, today. That’s what this is about. I want to talk to the people who may be thinking, “I’m not sure what to feel about this.”
A man—certainly an evil man—has been killed for his horrific crimes against humanity. And there is no doubt in my mind that it was a righteous kill. Let’s get into what this is not before we explore what it is.
Feeling relief or vindication over the death of Bin Laden is not schadenfreude—the guilty pleasure or amusement one takes in someone else’s misfortune. There is absolutely, unequivocally nothing to ‘feel bad’ about, here. I know there are people out there who punish themselves with guilt over morally questionable acts and feelings (even when they have no control over those feelings), but news of this magnitude can bring a sense of relief.
I want to make this clear: I am not happy that Osama Bin Laden is dead. I dearly wish another solution could have been found to resolve this very real problem; namely that there are people in the world we have not met that hate us so much they are willing to kill themselves in order to kill complete strangers. I wish there were another way.