"I thought we were better than that."
So said a co-worker, after I asked her about her response to Osama bin Laden's death. We were both feeling queasy about the World Cup-type celebrations of a human being's death--even if that human being is not only responsible for the deaths of thousands he called infidel, but also unrepentant.
I don't think we're better than that. I do think there's a very human need to find closure- to the shock and pain and grief of 9/11, of two endless wars, of a floundering world economy--wherever we can. I'm thinking about that photograph of the sailor and a nurse passionately kissing in Times Square on V-J day in 1945. That was the end to a war that had gone on too long and claimed so many lives. Their joy at having the rest of their lives ahead of them is palpable. Osama's death might just be the end of a life that must have been devoid of joy. Not the end of a movement, or of violence.
For many who were directly affected by 9/11, Osama's death is something to celebrate. On the front page of our community's local newspaper, there was a photo of a young soldier who had lost his eye in Iraq. Can anyone truly blame him for being happy about the death of someone whose actions declared war on our country? Can anyone blame 9/11 survivors?
Osama clearly hated life. He was exiled from his own country. After 9/11 he was forced into hiding, basically imprisoning himself in maximum security. What kind of life could he have lived under these conditions?
I do think we can be better than this. And it's up to those of us who are committed to what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls the path of sanity and openness to live like we mean it.