Celebrations of bin Laden's death in poor taste

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 2, 2011 - 5:45 PM

Crowds gathers outside the White House in Washington early Monday, May 2, 2011, to celebrate after President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, Associated Press

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The mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is now sleeping with the fishes.

There’s a cold sense of satisfaction that comes from conjuring up the scene that must have played out somewhere on a U.S. Navy ship: Osama Bin Laden’s body, perhaps wrapped in a sheet, plunging into the water.

The last remains of a man who put so much evil in motion now lost forever in the ocean’s dark depths.

Good riddance. May the much-deserved bullet that ended bin Laden’s life bring about eternal atonement for his sins.

So many of us felt that biblical, eye-for-an-eye sense of justice Sunday night when hearing news reports about bin Laden’s death.

It was part of a complex storm of emotions: relief, a sense of closure and pride in the special forces team that tracked this killer down and accomplished its mission with no American or civilian casualties.

That sense of national accomplishment was earned.

At the same time, there was an uneasiness that came from watching the full-out street celebrations that broke out across the country Sunday night.

What should have been a moment of somber reflection instead became something else. Flags, high-fives, chants of USA! USA!

The same kind of jingoistic stuff that comes with Olympic hockey gold medals or professional sports team championships — except we were celebrating an assassination.

It was even more unsettling on Facebook. Posts included “Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey goodbye!” One religious official I know put up a post clearly reveling in bin Laden’s death.

Had President Obama put bin Laden’s head on a pike and paraded it down Pennsylvania Avenue, we as a nation were ready to click as one on Facebook’s “Like” button.

Bin Laden was indeed the mass murderer that President Obama described him as Sunday night. He chose and deserved the death that came, finally, at the hands of U.S. soldiers. Our military forces’ heroism should not be underappreciated.

But the exuberance on display Sunday night did not compliment our nation.

Instead, it brought back memories of the dancing in the streets that took place in some Arab countries after 9-11, and the "Death to America" chants that rang through Iran during the hostage crisis.

Did our behavior Sunday night reflect American values? Or the bloodthirsty ones of our enemies? Did we control our grief and rage? Or did it control us?

We got the bastard. Yeah, I get that.

But this was not a game. It was a killing, however justified and necessary – not a three-pointer at the buzzer. A touch more restraint would have been more becoming.

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