Monday, 2 May 2011
I am currently listening to a Radio 4 extended news coverage of the death of Osama Bin Laden and at this moment to people in New York. It is interesting to note the range of responses, some people expressing intense exultation and a sense of victory, but with some reports of a more sombre reaction, people lighting candles and remembering the dead. I have just seen the comment on twitter of one 9/11 survivor, Harry Waizer: "I just can't find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden".
Like everyone I was shocked and horrified by the events of 9/11 and found it hard to imagine the scale of the terror, loss and suffering. Perhaps I am unimaginative, but I found it difficult this morning to feel any sort of emotional reaction to the news of Bin Laden's death. I could not find it in myself to feel anything other than it is a good thing that he is gone, at the same time I felt our main focus should be upon the implications of his death, whether it will make us safer or less so, whether it will make any long term difference to global terrorism, which surely lies in ideologies as much as in individuals.
I suppose I should make some attempt to consider the moral issues around this killing, but I am loathe to do so because on the one hand there is so much to say and on the other hand so little. We are clearly told to love our enemies in the bible. We are told a lot of other things as well, things which contradict the idea of loving our enemies, which just goes to show how isolated verses don't take us that far! I guess that when Christ said love your enemies he also meant mass murderers, not just love those who are a little bit nasty to you, but never in the real world is the USA going to love its enemy in this context! Love and forgiveness are not always practical or possible on a personal level either; how many of those, whether Christian or not, who lost loved ones in 9/11 would say that they have forgiven, much more that they love those responsible? Which of us would really argue that they should, or must do so?
Listening to some of those interviewed today I heard the unmistakable note of revenge, one man expressed his view that the devil had been destroyed. The events of 9/11 were evil, but it was not an evil that came from nowhere, but an evil rooted in ideas and ideologies, no doubt Bin Laden thought "justice had been done" when the towers collapsed. Nor does the death of Bin Laden even out the score, nobody is a winner in this situation. The dead of 9/11 remain dead, the suffering cannot be erased and the fact that we are capable of carrying out atrocities, or repaying our hurts without a thought for human suffering and that we will carry on doing so for the whole of human history, makes us all losers. I am not very good at forgiving; if I had lost someone in 9/11, I might be rejoicing at Bin Laden's death. As it is, I feel more like lighting a candle - not for him but for us all.