Justice. And conflicted emotion.

Is this how you feel?

“JUSTICE has been done.” In this way, President Obama began his speech announcing the death of Osama bin Laden. Navy Seals led a raid on a compound in a small, affluent Pakistani town and killed the “mastermind” behind Al-Queda and the unspeakable events of 9/11.

The world, or at least those who aren’t bin Laden admirers, celebrate. People wave flags and chant the pledge of allegiance in Times Square and in front of The White House in Washington.  Fireworks light up the sky. People dance in the streets.  Horns honk.  Candles flicker.  Medals gleam.  Polished buttons glint.

I lay in bed last night and listened to the President’s speech. It was suitably grave (you’ll pardon the pun) and dignified.

Today in the media there is much talk of the Arab Spring, the end of the old war against terror and the beginning of Arab democracy.  There is also talk of heightened security and raised threat levels.

I’ve been trying all day to figure out what I feel.  There is no doubt in my mind bin Laden was an ego-maniacal fanatic, an Arab Hitler with a psychopath’s agenda, self-costumed as a hero of the downtrodden, the Muslim messiah (never mind the thousands of Muslims he has, in fact, killed).  I have no sympathy for him.  So why, then, do I feel a pebble of sadness in my shoe?  Why do I feel this is just another lanced boil — but that the body still writhes under the fever, still suffers from the plague of death-lust?

To celebrate a killing, even of a man responsible for so much agony, a man consumed with psychosis on a cosmic scale, proves only that we, too, are still ill and in need of soul healing.

Has justice been done?  Probably.  Was it necessary?  Given the undeniable fact of who we humans are  — savage and vengeful and fearful — possibly.  Will it lessen the grief of those who lost loved ones on 9/11?  Perhaps, in a small way, and temporarily (Although there is no doubt had bin Laden been captured and brought to trial the prolonged suffering of the survivors would have been immense). Yet his killing will not fill the empty spaces, will not bring back the dead. Will bin Laden’s death make the world a kinder, safer, more peaceful place?  Doubtful.  We prove, time and time again, we are addicted to aggression and the world is full of would-be martyrs. The cycle will continue in one way or another.

Yes, that’s what I feel most—sadness.  After all these generations, still the only way we have of dealing with evil is an eye for an eye and a big street party?  Sad.

Copyright 2011 Lauren B. Davis For permissions: laurenbdavis.iCopyright.com


  1. John Richards on May 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Amen to that. I, too, felt the same sadness. I was blessed by your post. Thank you.

    Recent article I wrote on the issue:
    Osama bin Laden’s Death: Wrestling With Violence in Defense of Justice http://goo.gl/fb/IZhZV

  2. Lauren B. Davis on May 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks so much, John. To my readers — I recommend you also visit John’s blog.

  3. Dawn on May 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. I have been trying to ignore the gloating
    and glee that is being broadcast to the world. I guess we operate
    on the Revenge is Sweet principle. I hope at least the victims
    and their families feel some closure.

    I just read your post to Annapurna. She says you need to give a talk
    at her school.

    • Lauren B. Davis on May 3, 2011 at 7:48 am

      Thanks, Dawn. And say thank you to Annapurna as well. I’d be honored to speak at her school. I feel this is one of those historical moments when we have an opportunity to teach young people how to think critically and not merely absorb the noise.

  4. Lucky8 on May 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Lauren, thank you for this heartfelt essay. I also have a pebble of sadness in my shoe, and share the sentiments you’ve expressed so well.

  5. Liisa on May 3, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I, too, have mixed emotions about the recent news.

    As I watched the coverage, American flags waving, people dancing
    and rejoicing in the streets, I couldn’t help but think,
    “Has justice really been done here?”

    How is that we can justify the death of thousands with that of one?
    Even though he was to blame for their deaths, his does not mark the end of terrorism,
    only his role in it.

    He was a man full of hatred, yes, but I can’t celebrate his death.
    I just can’t. It feels completely wrong.

    Thanks for sharing this, Lauren.

    • Lauren B. Davis on May 3, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Thanks, Liisa. And, given your family’s military connection, your compassion and clear-eyed honest holds extra weight.

  6. Susan Ronn on May 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I, too, feel sad, Lauren, and confused. As do most New Zealanders we speak to. Thank you for this post; we need a community of compassion.

    • Lauren B. Davis on May 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      Thanks, Susan. I’m certainly not the only one. There are have been a number of articles written by people (mostly Christians as it happens) who feel the same. The mood at ground zero was notably different from that of Times Square. At ground zero it was somber, reflective, and prayerful. But then perhaps that’s not surprising — most of the people at ground zero were actual New Yorkers, at Times Square (where no self-respecting New Yorker ever goes according to Fran Leibowitz) it was mostly out of towners.

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