Cheers: Not to a Death, to Ending Extremism

I admit it. I wanted to go the White House last night. But it wasn’t for the reasons you’re thinking; it wasn’t to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden. Really, I was curious and wanted to observe the crowd.

No, I didn’t interview anyone (although I thought about it) but there is something to be said for simply watching a celebration that draws thousands to the streets.

First, nearly everyone appeared to be college aged. There were people in trees, people with face paint, people with boom boxes, people riding on the roofs and hoods of cars, people hanging out of sun roofs waving the American flag. And of course many a creative sign. Finally, lest we forget those who were still selling flags at 2 a.m. to color the crowd more patriotic.

Courtesy of Crowd gathers outside White House in Washington early Monday morning.

Then there was the chanting along the lines of, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” only to be complimented by the incessant honking of cars as they drove past Pennsylvania Avenue.  My friend and I tried to get a different chant to catch on, namely: “Pak-i-stan! Pak-i-stan! Pak-i-stan!” We were greeted with nothing but odd and confused looks. I stress the adjective confused.

Who is This Really About?

I hate to break this news to all of you joyful protest goers but this isn’t just about the “U.S.A.” It’s about people and peace across the globe and it’s time we shift the focus from strictly on the west and place it properly to include the east.

To be sure, this is an incredible success for our military and the Obama Administration. In fact, this may very well guarantee his re-election. I am the first to seek justice for those who lost their lives and loved ones on September 11, 2001. So before you think I am being un-American for criticizing the celebration, know that my view of the historical significance of this day is, simply put, much broader.

I will say first, ask yourself this: while we were exercising our right to peaceably assemble at 2:00 a.m., who took time to think about the men, women, and children in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan who are also victims of Osama bin Laden’s violence and extremism? Were you also celebrating this “justice” for them?

The reality is that bin Laden’s ideals are still thriving in many corners of the world and the death of a leader often only incites more violence and anger. What will this really mean for the Middle East? What will it mean for the United States? These are unanswerable questions but ones that should be within the framework as we choose to “celebrate” the death of a ruthless extremist.

Second, this. Yes, the might of the American military succeeded in killing bin Laden but we would not have accomplished this without intelligence and cooperation from Pakistan.

A Glance Beyond This Moment

Most importantly, the bigger issue. Bin Laden was the poster boy for the anger that followed the September 11th attacks. He was considered the mastermind – and he needed to be brought to justice. But he was also the leader of a faction of extremism that is not going to vanish from this earth simply because bin Laden is dead.

I certainly hope that many feel a sense of closure for those who were lost on that fateful day but the reality is that others will continue to foster the beliefs that are embodied in this extremism. Only if these views are countered and exterminated from the earth will there be true cause to celebrate. Until then, I will honor the men and women in uniform; I will honor those we lost that fateful day; and I will envision a bigger triumph that will end this extremism and violence once and for all.

7 thoughts on “Cheers: Not to a Death, to Ending Extremism

  1. You believe they’re telling the truth about all this? Some have made the case he’s been dead for several years. This is a very convenient “victory” for the Obama administration that comes without a body and possibly even without pictures. And the extra-judicial nature of the killing only suggests that ‘might makes right,’ and there’s nothing in that message that offers any alternative or antidote to extremism. We have to kill the bin Laden within…the murderous American coward who justifies the deaths and torture of thousands for the actions of a few crazed Muslim extremists…and that White House demonstration is evidence that we’re failing miserably at that.

    • Thanks for your comment. I, of course, don’t know that they are telling the truth – in fact I didn’t believe it at first. Only time will tell. But I completely agree and I like how you phrased that, “kill the bin laden within.” Only then will there be cause to celebrate.

  2. Good thoughtful comments; I do believe for some it was an opportunity to take a huge ‘sigh’ and finally feel good about something related to these terrible years after 9/11 with the wars and the killing and the spending just continuing. Certainly this won’t end anything, but, maybe give hope to those who fervently believe that killing innocents (or anyone for that matter) can make the world safer and happier…it’d be really nice if all our warring could just stop awhile..

    Robb S.

  3. Shelley, thank you for starting this dialogue. I would be surprised if people who experienced loss on 9/11 really equate the tragedy to Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Also I wonder how many of those protesters are former homeless people hired by those teabaggers. The first thing I think of when I think of is when the 9/11 responders bill failed. What an embarrassing moment in U.S. history. It’s like we’re in a toxic relationship but all we focus on is how the OTHER person needs to change even though we know we have issues like Americans aren’t properly trained for available job opportunities, predatory lending, health care, rampant obesity, to name a few. I agree with your sentiment for world peace but I also see horrible things going on here that need our attention right away. (Sorry relationship metaphors are the only ones I know. Damn my public school education!)

    • Thanks for your comment. I don’t think people equate loss from September 11th with Osama bin Laden but I do think some felt that “justice” was served for its victims. And I agree – there is a lot to focus on here. Our country has a lot of systemic problems that are being danced around and not addressed. Perhaps this only bolsters the argument that celebrating the death of the world’s “number one terrorist” is simply a waste of energy when so many people need assistance.

  4. Pingback: Follow Up on Bin Laden « 4WomenWorldwide

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