Hey Hey Goodbye Chants
CultureWar: In celebrating Osama bin Laden's death, how much is too much?
Americans of all political stripes were united by the news Sunday night that Osama bin Laden had been killed by American forces in his Pakistan compound. But as reaction to the announcement turned into a "raucous street party" on the streets near the White House, at Ground Zero and elsewhere, it's time to ask: When it comes to celebrating Bin Laden's death, are we crossing the line?
Sarah Rufca: Obviously we were both excited to see the news last night that Osama bin Laden was killed.
Caroline Gallay: Yes, absolutely. But we feel differently about the outright dancing-in-the-streets celebration that's been going on, yes?
Sarah: I feel like Samuel L. Jackson in A Time to Kill. Like, yes, he deserved to die and I hope he burns in hell. But I think there's a difference in being happy, satisfied, vindicated — and outright glee.
Caroline: I don't know that you can pin "glee" on everyone that is celebrating. I think there is a solemn underpinning of remembrance for everyone who's died. But to me, it's not crass. We're not talking about an individual anymore.
Sarah: I didn't see a lot of solemnity in the videos from outside the White House.
Caroline: We're talking about an icon — someone who held sway over the hearts and minds of multitudes of people who've proven themselves capable of real evil. I would say we saw relief, satisfaction — an unburdening. I don't know that it was "gleeful." I heard on the radio comparisons drawn to the celebrations in Gaza, which I just don't think is comparable. We're comparing the killing of civilians to that of a mass murderer.
Sarah: You don't think the dancing and the "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye" was pretty gleeful?
Caroline: I think we're missing the point now arguing over the exact emotion people are feeling and how to term it. I thought we were discussing whether celebration was appropriate. It is, hopefully, a mark of the end of our longest war. Why shouldn't people be happy? Thrilled?
Sarah: They should be happy! I just think we argue that we are the enlightened, justice-seeking civilization and as such we have to avoid acting like we get pleasure from killing. I think we are supposed to be above that.
Caroline: I think it's about justice, not vengeance.
Sarah: I think about my host family in Spain that would quietly open a nice bottle of wine on the anniversary of Franco's death. I mean freedom is good and should be celebrated, but respectfully.
Caroline: I don't think anything remotely related to Osama bin Laden deserves respect.
Sarah: I think it's respect for ourselves. That we aren't monsters. We have consciences.
Caroline: No, we aren't monsters. We shot him in the head without civilian casualty. So who cares if we want to wave flags in the street and scream about it? It's not as if we're parading his body through the street.
Sarah: That's great. More power to us. But we are supposed to be better than people who scream and wave flags in the streets after they murder someone, and if we are going to be horrified by them we should also be a little wary seeing similar responses by Americans.
Caroline: I don't think we would be horrified by anyone singing and dancing in the streets after successfully defeating a tyrannical mass murderer ... I think we've been horrified by those celebrating the slaying of civilians, but this is not that. It's not even close. Would you think less of Libyans for celebrating the death of Gaddafi?
Sarah: I don't think you get to pick and choose when you value life. Al Qaeda is disgusting because they have no respect for the lives of innocent people. That is what makes them wrong, vile, awful. But we aren't just in a fight to win in a military sense, we have made the argument that our philosophy and way of life is better. That we have a "culture of life."
Thus, I don't think we can take a night off and give in to this animalistic love of revenge and celebration of killing him. I think we say, "It had to be done and we did it and we're glad," but we don't revel in it.
Caroline: Bin Laden was more than a person. I feel we're not even talking about an individual anymore at that point. Let's agree to disagree.
Sarah Rufca: I can handle that.