The news spread quickly, almost immediately given our near constant connectivity to all things media. Osama bin Laden, easily the most hated man in the world, was dead. After a brief pause for confirmation and reassurance, the celebration began. Hoots and hollers, chants of "U-S-A" and toasts of cheers filled the usually mundane Sunday night. Radio hosts almost giddily proclaimed that we will always remember where we were when we heard the announcement.
In what seemed like no time at all, there were graphic photographs posted on websites, videos shared on social media pages, news updates back-to-back. The Internet was bursting with a kind of excitement that fans exude when their team wins a championship. But these images, bloody, gory, like something out of a slasher film, and which are still being dispersed, are nothing to cheer about.
I understand what bin Laden's death signifies: an end to terrorism, and closure to one of the most horrific and tragic events our country has ever experienced. I understand what bin Laden represents: a threat to be feared, an evil force beyond our reach. It's been 10 years of mourning, 10 years of questioning, 10 years of suffering. So I do understand why there would be a sigh of relief and prayers of gratitude that this threat has finally, after all this time, been set aside. But it is difficult and disturbing for me to think of celebrating the death of any human being. Martin Luther King said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
Has justice been served? That certainly can be said to be true. But when something like this happens, it is not a time to gloat, or to stir up feelings of revenge and animosity. It is a time for sobriety. It is a time when clear heads should prevail, when we can reflect and learn and turn out attention to the peace that we so deeply crave. Martin Luther King recognized this, and articulated it well. Gandhi understood this. Mother Teresa did as well. We have both the option and the ability to handle ourselves in a spiritually mature manner. These people have set the example for us, and laid the groundwork for a new paradigm. It's not just how we act that has an impact on the world. It's also how we react, and how we respond to the situations that arise all around us that can make all the difference in how we learn and grow. We always have choices. And we need to realize the effect that these choices have on our own lives, and the lives of all those around us. The truth is that, as we have seen with the way the Internet works and how quickly news travels, we are all connected. Our actions can either hurt or help.
Whatever our practice happens to be, however we acknowledge the change that has taken place, let us take some time to focus on peace, to take some of the love that is in our hearts and share it out in the world. Love is the most powerful force there is, and we can never have too much of it.