I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. ~ Mark Twain
Today’s news cycle is a hell of a thing. My ‘stop the presses’ moment came late last night when I planned to publish an article about the killer tornadoes in the South when news began to break of Something Big blowing in from Washington.
At 10:15PM EDT, during a commercial break Iron Man, I glanced at my Facebook news stream. Someone wrote: “President to make important announcement at 10:30. No one knows about what. What is going on?!”
The FB post was confirmed when I switched from my fun movie to CNN. Suddenly my flight-fight response kicked in. Such a tightly controlled late-night announcement “about national security” from the White House was unprecedented. I had to tell myself to keep breathing and remember that television networks thrived on panic. Even with all my tools to keep anxiety at bay, I was braced for very bad news.
Once it became clear that the President intended to inform the nation about Osama Bin Laden’s death by special operations, I had my brain back. This was good news, right?
There was an explosion of activity on my Twitter feed, from the congratulatory, to the hilarious. While I laughed at the absurdity of one tweet, “Terrorism is OVER! Security alert: Rainbow!!!”, I shuddered at the ugliness of others dispatching Bin Laden to hell.
I am a life long advocate of life over the death penalty. My personal ethics are that no human being has the moral perfection to stand in judgement of another when it comes to the ultimate punishment. Does that mean I do not feel pride in what the US forces accomplished? Of course not. I am proud. Does it mean that I should wish such an evil man mercy? As hard as this is to admit, I don’t know.
After the Second World War the Allied Forces had a choice when it came to how to deal with some of the Third Reich’s worse villains. A decision was made to hold trials in Nuremberg, with legal representation for those accused of the most heinous crimes imaginable. It was a highly controversial move. Many did not understand why such evil was not simple lined up against a wall and shot. The philosophic ideal behind the trials was to demonstrate by action the moral high ground of the victorious powers. Whether the Nuremberg trials were successful in that regard is not within my ability to say. But the spirit was there.
Could such a trial have happened today for Osama Bin Laden? Sadly, that is doubtful. He was evil, a self-professed killer of thousands determined to kill more. He had to be stopped. But did he have to be killed? Even though his death is more symbol than anything, the symbolism is important. And Bin Laden in captivity could spark endless turmoil without good resolution. I get that. It just doesn’t rest easy for me.
Which is why by midnight last night when the mood began to change from awestruck amazement and patriotism to ‘Let’s party!’ it was time for me to go to bed. I understand and can feel the gratitude of the nation for what our Navy Seals did yesterday, but I find it hard to watch a guy hanging from a lamp post, spraying the crowd at Ground Zero with champagne. Somehow, that doesn’t feel right.