It’s 2:19 a.m. Osama bin Laden is dead. A few hours ago President Obama declared that, “Justice has been done.” Americans are chanting in the streets.

The death of the world’s most wanted man is a symbolically enormous victory for the United States and for President Obama. I am sure that this is a very joyous occasion for the men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, perhaps the first real spark of hope that they finally will be able to go home and stay home with their families. It may also bring comfort to people who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 and those who suffer from health problems related to the events of that day. But I am not an “eye for an eye” kind of person and somehow celebrating death – even that of the world’s most infamous terrorist – seems a bit strange to me, and so my outlook on this may be different from many Americans.

I am happy for people who find consolation by today’s news, however I will hold off on celebrating until a different kind of justice has been done. A moral justice. An ethical justice. To my mind, justice will be done when we bring our troops home and put people back to work serving our country in peace. Justice will be done when we stop treating Muslims and anyone with a “funny sounding” last name like criminals. Justice will be done when we stop looking at people of a different skin color, religion and language than our own with skepticism, hate and contempt. Justice will be done when we make reparations for the thousands of lives that have been lost, harmed and interrupted by the 10-year war on terror. Justice will be done when we start spending more money on education than we do on the military. Justice will be done when we stop debating what level of torture is acceptable. Justice will be done when tear gas used on Egyptian protestors is no longer the only thing I see in the media that’s “Made in the USA.” Justice will be done when the fear and anger in America is reduced. Justice will be done when we stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility for our actions. Justice will be done when we react with empathy instead of antipathy. I mean no disrespect to the people who are celebrating tonight, but for me, that’s when justice will be done.

All things considered, I still thought Obama gave a really great speech tonight. He said all the right things, including noting that Islam is separate from terrorism , that bin Laden was not a Muslim leader and that bin Laden was a mass murderer of Muslims as well as Americans, all while noting that Pakistan assisted in the effort. The only thing more I could have asked from Obama was for some reiteration of the speech he gave following the massacre in Tucson, when he talked about personal responsibility.

“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

Today was a good day, but it’s up to all of us to take the next steps to ensure that justice has been done.

Thank you, and be kind.


6 thoughts on “justice

  1. Are you from a nobler time? Watching people on TV, in front of TWH, chanting “na na na na, hey hey-ey, goodbye” was eerie. I don’t begrudge people experiencing and expressing relief in this world moment. I do too. But let’s not be vengeful in our celebration.

    • Sam,

      I couldn’t agree more. The tenor of the people gathered in the streets of New York and DC was very unsettling. The bloodthirsty nature of the reactions was very disappointing and hopefully fleeting. Unfortunately our moral sense of emotions (reflection, compassion, empathy) seem to awaken much more slowly than others.

  2. Very well written, Laura. I agree completely. You might want to look at Tavis Smiley’s Facebook post, also.

  3. Laura Banish! D’Yell and I experienced the same surreal feeling the other night as we watched people wrapping themselves in the flag and singing the Star Spangled Banner. On the one hand, there was that sense of “phew, that’s over” and, of course, “thank God this happened now for Obama’s sake.” At the same time, it is genuinely disturbing watching people celebrate anyone being killed. Yesterday, as I talked with my 94 year old daddy, and as various friends and colleagues circled in throughout the day, I realized that we all shared the same sober response, and that this sense of alienation from what other Americans are experiencing is, of course, nothing new. You’ll note that the first responders and families of victims of 9/11 also had sober and muted responses, and weren’t yelling “We’re #1!!”, because they’re very clear that this isn’t a win in a football game. Still, for “the youth”, who’ve lived with this post-9/11 reality since childhood, who have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, can’t find jobs, and keep hearing that not only is America not number one, anymore, we’re more like #3, it probably did feel like a big danged win and opportunity to celebrate something. So now, we settle in to watch if any of this translates to changed budgetary priorites and into ending these effing wars!! xoxoxox

  4. As usual, your writing nails the issue Laura. People cheering and chanting as if it were a football game left a bad taste in my mouth. Thanks for the post.

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