He’s dead?…

Osama bin Laden is dead. It feels strange to write that. I could wish he had been brought to trial — or brought to justice really — rather than killed in a firefight. But they’re reporting that he used another person as a human shield, which reveals a lack of courage and a moral depravity. So he’s dead. I can’t help but think that the world is a better place without him.

By sheer coincidence, today I’ve been thinking about the Cain and Abel story from the book of Genesis. You’ve heard the story: Adam and Eve are the first two humans. They have two sons, Cain and Abel. God favors Abel over Cain, and in a fit of pique Cain murders Abel. When God asks Cain where Abel has got to, Cain replies, How should I know, am I my brother’s keeper? But God, being God, knows that Cain has killed Abel, and tells him so. Cain is ashamed. God punishes Cain, saying: I’m cursing you, your life will be tough, you’re going to be a vagabond and a fugitive forever. Cain says, I’m gonna be a vagabond and a fugitive, and everyone who finds me out will try to kill me. But God says, Not so, anyone who kills you, vengeance will be taken upon him sevenfold. Then God set a mark upon Cain to let people know about that. There’s some kind of weird complex poetic truth to the Cain and Abel story that I can never quite wrap my head around. It is obviously not a literally true story, but like the best fiction it gets at deeper truths — what the deeper truths are is open for debate.

And although it’s an inexact and incomplete analogy, I can’t help thinking of Osama bin Laden as a Cain-like figure: someone who commits a heinous murder, and who, after his crime was committed, had to become a fugitive and vagabond. It’s an inexact analogy, and Osama bin Laden was not Cain, but I have to admit I do worry about the aftermath of his death. Osama bin Laden is dead, the world is a better place without him, but I would not call this a neat and tidy ending to his story.

I do feel an enormous sense of relief that he’s dead. He was both depraved and powerful. And now the question is: what next?

6 thoughts on “He’s dead?…”

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I heard the news this morning and, as a UU, I have the same mixed feelings you do. The idea of Americans chanting USA! and honking horns long into the night after Vin Laden was killed is unsettling. You’re right, it would have been better to have had him brought to trial. I understand that couldn’t have happened under the circumstances, and I’m glad that he’s not an active thread any longer, but we should be pausing to reflect on the four lives that were lost last night rather than celebrating another death.

  2. So glad to see a UU perspective thrown up this quickly. Still trying to wrap my head around this event-I worry about the next chapter, too. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Dan — It’s odd. I wrote this for my Facebook post: “Every human life is sacred; Osama bin Laden didn’t get that. If we celebrate his death? We don’t get it either.” And it got a lot of hits and reposts. But then? There was also a lot of chest thumping and “yay we killed him” crap.

    I don’t feel relief. I feel an impending sense of doom. The U.S. has created a martyr. There were people who believed what bin Laden did was justified. Justified.

    I suspect things will only get worse. I’m sorry our president could not have orchestrated a more strategic plucking of bin Laden out of his lair. Got him to speak. Got people to listen.

    But in this climate? Now? No one listens. It’s all heated rhetoric and BS and political posturing. I fear for the soul of our country, for any country with decent intentions.

    And sometimes I still believe ours has that. Sometimes.

  4. It is a sad day for me. I understand that it felt justified and victorious to “kill” Bin Laden but I feel that it has upped the fight and the thought of grief stricken, enraged radical Muslims watching footage of Americans celebrating this death makes me feel very certain that pay back will come. Will there be a daycare in the next American target sight?
    vengeance only promotes and justifies more vengeance. I think that Americans can do much better than this. sharon g

  5. Thanks for the comments. One of the most hopeful things to come out of this for me is the way people under 20 are responding. There’s a letter from a high school student in today’s Sane Jose Mercury News which says in part: “The images of Americans — decked out in flag-inspired apparel — celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden is shameful…. is it ever permissible, ethically, to rejoice over the death of a human being?” And the Merc interviewed several people under 20 who shared similar views.

  6. Dan — unfortunately, a few under 20 somethings here where I live have taken it upon themselves to taunt, harass, and even molest fellow students who happen not to be white, or American born. It’s rather ugly. And you can bet they learned this at home. Not much hope in that. Sorry.

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