Editorial: Wishing a man dead

Published on: May 5, 2011

Mark Twain once said, “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

I am not the man that Twain was. I have wished a man dead.

I first heard about Osama bin Laden in the early-1990s in a report that said he was calling for the death of Americans. At that time, I wondered why someone I had never met wanted me dead. I couldn’t begin to fathom what any American had ever done to him to where he felt justified in threatening death to me, and to innocent mothers, fathers and children.

On September 11, 2001, I learned more about his mentality; but I still failed to understand it. What sort of human could do such a thing to so many innocent people? The victims of his cowardly act (and, of note, was that he didn’t actually act, he remained safe and alive while his operatives died performing evil in his name) were people who merely went to work one day to support their families and themselves. They weren’t militants, they weren’t aggressors. They were innocent and an easy target because they couldn’t fight back — or, at least, bin Laden didn’t think so. The heroes of Flight 93 proved them wrong on that one. In the end, I concluded that no human could do such a thing so, therefore, bin Laden wasn’t human. He was evil. At that point, I began to wish him dead.

The years passed and, like most of the world, the ravings of a madman did not register much of a blip on my life’s radar. Until Sunday night, that is, with the news reports that U.S. operatives had killed Osama bin Laden. I watched the crowds gathering at the White House, singing the Star Spangled Banner, and chanting, “USA! USA!” Not even the members of the media could contain their happiness. As a nation, we were collectively cheering this man’s death.

I am a Christian and as such, I am supposed to forgive. I have tried, I really have. I pondered that philosophy while watching the celebration on television. Is it right that I am happy a man is dead? I don’t know, and I’m thinking about it; but the fact remains that, to me, the world is a better place without Osama bin Laden.

Yet I know that judgment and vengeance are not mine. The next time I pray, I will first pray for strength and compassion for those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and in the enormous global death toll following that day. I will then try to figure out how to pray for bin Laden. I think it is the right thing to do, but I have to be honest; lying to God isn’t on my bucket list. I’ll have to figure that one out. That said, I am happy some U.S. Navy Seals delivered long-awaited justice.

Like all Americans, I took the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 personally. And while I didn’t lose friends or loved ones, I feel a great attachment to the day because on that fateful morning I was in Sarasota covering President Bush’s visit to an elementary school for The Observer News. I was only yards away from the President when he announced the attacks to the nation. To this day, I can still fully recall the horror and shock I felt when hearing President Bush describe the attack. Until that moment, those of us in that school thought it was just a horrible accident.

Clearly, I have a lot to think about. But I do know one thing; I took great pleasure in reading Osama bin Laden’s obituary in The New York Times on Monday morning. I don’t feel bad about that in the least.