Osama bin Laden’s Death: A Time to Reflect, Not Celebrate.

Via John DiGilio
on May 1, 2011
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No, I am not celebrating tonight. I am waiting…

“Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.” ~ Proverbs 24:17.

“The Bible also says that you should love your enemy as yourself, and that vengeance is the Lord’s alone.”


What initially seemed inevitable in the wake of the September 11 terrorist bombings and gradually came to look like an exercise in futility has finally come to pass.

Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda, has been killed.

He was a terrorist and the epitome of evil to millions.

To many others, he was a freedom fighter.

The people who saw him as a soldier of God will tonight call him a martyr, while those who still live with the horror of the attacks on the World Trade Centers will take relief at justice finally served.

Regardless of perspective, this is neither a time to celebrate or mourn.

This is a time to reflect on a near decade of fear and violence. It should be a time to step back and say “never again.”

The news that United States forces had finally caught up with the mastermind behind the infamous 2001 attacks, as well as many others, comes to most as a surprise. The reaction has been varied. From sighs of relief, to celebrations, to outrage, bin Laden is as polarizing in his end as he was in life.

Perhaps the hardest images for me to watch right now are those of revelers in front of the White House. It is troubling not because I cannot identify with what they are feeling. Until the day I die, I will never forget the scenes of terror barely a decade ago. I remember well my own anger and utter sadness. What strikes me though is that these images recall for me similar sights of people celebrating in the Middle East as the Towers came down. Were we not all outraged at those pictures?

Do not get me wrong, I believe that justice and karma have been served.

Osama bin Laden died as violently as he lived. Part of me wants to shout out in relief. But I cannot help but think that this is not the time for such behavior. The death of a man, any man, is not something to celebrate. Regardless of how or why the end came, a death should cause us to stop and reflect on the life that was lived. Bin Laden was an angry man, whose hatred so overflowed his earthly vessel that it continues to sweep up lives around the world in a torrent of violence and death. His beliefs and rhetoric were not born over night. They were the products of decades, no centuries, of misunderstandings, misdeeds, and misconceptions by forces bigger than him. Tonight, the man may be dead, but the anger and fear that empowered his cause continue to thrive. This is the fight that lays ahead for us all.

Before any of us raises a shout in celebration of bin Laden’s end, we should perhaps stop and raise the penultimate question. What now?

It is time for the whole world to take stock of what it has learned from this terrifying and deadly game of cat and mouse that has played out globally over this last decade. The loss of life, down to the Osama’s own death, has been staggering. When will it end?

No, I am not celebrating tonight. I am waiting for the day when men no longer feel the need to kill or be killed for the sake of righteousness or hatred. On that day, I will party with the best of them. Tonight and in the days ahead, I will be praying and working for that moment.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
– Prayer of St. Francis


About John DiGilio

John DiGilio lives in Chicago with his partner and his boss, a finicky Chihuahua by the name of Peanut. He is a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist and Gnostic seminarian. John’s interests include anarchism, vegetarian cooking, and reading. He is a librarian, educator and writer in the fields of law, information, ethics and spirituality. For more, check out John's post at the Chicagoist.


52 Responses to “Osama bin Laden’s Death: A Time to Reflect, Not Celebrate.”

  1. JaniceA says:

    I couldn't agree more, especially with: "I believe that justice and karma have been served. Osama bin Laden died as violently as he lived. Part of me wants to shout out in relief. But I cannot help but think that this is not the time for such behavior. The death of a man, any man, is not something to celebrate." This is intelligently written and definitely expresses the complexity of the situation more than anything else I have read about it.

  2. shannon says:

    thank you for writing this. thank you.

    • John DiGilio says:

      And thank you for reading!

      • JRL says:

        Just wondering, why end the (beautiful) entry with a quote from a Catholic preacher? I feel like I wrote something similar to this here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/joshua-reuben-lewis… :: Just admiring the abundant response to your post. Would really love to resonate with as many as possible.

        • John DiGilio says:

          Hi JRL. Though I am not Catholic, I have always found that prayer to be particularly compelling. It has been in my head for decades and seems to speak to me during some of my most conflicted moments. This was one of them.

  3. kelly says:

    brilliant!! BRAVO John DiGilio

  4. Amy says:

    And now I do not have to write MY post. My thoughts exactly. When we practice revenge, when we celebrate death, we invite more of the same. This, too, is karma. Today, I am choosing toward love.

  5. Jodie says:


  6. Jeff says:

    Idiot! This IS a time to Celebrate. You crawl back under your rock, we'll wake you when there's another new worthy event for you to get totally wrong….again!

    • John DiGilio says:

      If the best you can do it call me an idiot and tell me to crawl back under a rock, I will proudly take it. You only prove my point. OBL may be gone, but the anger, fear, and misunderstanding that gave him the opportunity and power to do what he did live on.

  7. misa says:

    Thanks for write the voice of Love. The violence is bringing just more violence and it felt strange to see the people on internet celebrate the death in the same time I was reading the email from american school (we live abroad) about measures of security for our children … We have to find the peace insight of us in order to creat the peace in the world. Thanks you for this Light in the darkness.

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
    – Prayer of St. Francis

    Loved it.

  8. Jinxy says:

    I said the same thing last night. We should be on guard as well, and to think not feasible. To have such mixed feelings of relief he is dead ( and im sorry I would have never thought I could actually feel that way towards someone and it scares me) and also have feelings of fear at the same time……I shake my head…..I am def worried now. So should we all.

    • John DiGilio says:

      I understand your sentiments completely. Believe me. I appreciate you giving this some thought.

  9. Jinxy says:

    Dont get me wrong, I disagree with your title, it is time to celebrate!

  10. lpfeffer says:

    Say to them, "As I live," says the Lord, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they would turn from their ways and live." Ezekiel 33:11a

  11. […] though I will still have to take off my shoes at the airport, I won’t mind as much knowing that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Kate is a boulder-based restaurant publicist, music critic and mother. She believes that she has […]

  12. John says:

    Thanks Laurie!

  13. annaj01 says:

    I am so grateful for this article. The celebrations and rabid excitement today have appalled me as people have screamed "Justice" while seemingly meaning "Revenge"! Violence will not bring peace and this death will not bring back the thousands of people on both sides of the world who have died. Prayerful reflection, thoughtful conversation and a personal commitment to sustainable peace may be the only true way to end this horror. The fighting has gone on to long already.

  14. John DiGilio says:

    Well said!

  15. […] the one hand, there is the human urge to celebrate a victory in Osama Bin Laden’s death. On the other, there is perhaps the more human urge to recognize that celebrating death is not what […]

  16. John DiGilio says:

    You are most welcome. Thank you for reading!

  17. Angie says:

    Thank you for saying what I have been saying on my Facebook page in status messages since last night.
    I have many friends who are rejoicing because this man is dead and yet call themselves “good Christians”… I have a real problem with that.

    Being relieved that this evil man is dead is one thing… dancing in the streets because he was shot in the head is another.

    So thank you, you said it very eloquently.

  18. Martha says:

    Celebrate a victory over evil because this is an endless fight. Reflect sure, but to say that we are the same as those celebrating evil as the author suggests versus the victory over evil is offensive.

    • John DiGilio says:

      Martha, I see your point. But we each see evil in our own way. Those who supported OBL and his al Qaeda would argue that his mission was divine and that the attack on the Towers was also a victory over evil. Do I agree? NO. But I think twice before I label anything a victory over evil.

  19. […] DiGilio over at elephant made this point better than I can, so I’ll let his words speak for me: …this is neither […]

  20. Brian says:

    I'm sorry but you are just wrong. I have been coming across this attitude for the past 24 hours now and I am sick of it. Especially since it seems so obviously tinged with a heaping dose of "holier than thou" sauce. And the ditto heads literally clamoring over each other to praise the writer of the post with the guarantee that the higher, and thus earlier they comment the more humanity cred they get. To make such statements that any celebration is wrong is to assume that human beings are binary creatures with the capability to have only one emotion at a time. I have no idea what is going on in someone's head but I doubt that many people cheering today are simply cheering the idea of death itself and if you think the world is that black and white then I wonder if anyone making these ridiculous statements would walk up to a 911 widow who dares to smile on this day in their lives and tell them they are wrong? I am especially disappointed by "journalists" who seem to be snatching at the golden ring of instant intellectual bravado in this issue. It seems a passive aggressive ploy more appropriate for a junior high school newsletter. I wish we could all just feel how we feel and try not to demonize those who choose to express themselves differently.

    • Fran says:

      Well said. I agree.

    • John DiGilio says:

      First of all, let me say that do not claim to be a journalist. This is an opinion piece, as I have stated again and again. If you wish we could feel how we feel and not demonize others for those feelings, I certainly appreciate that. But I am demonizing no one is saying that I will not celebrate or that watching others do so bothers me. That is me expressing how I feel. I noticed you started your response with "you are just wrong". Do you see me saying the same of those who were celebrating? How did you feel when you saw the images of people reveling post-9/11? Did it bother you? Would it have been wrong of you to say so if it did? The street goes two ways. You are particularly judgmental of those who agreed with my position. Is this not the same demonizing that bothers you? I respect your opinion greatly. However, any holier than thou sauce you are tasting was not served up by my hands. That is a condiment that is manufactured by the conscience.

  21. MLK says:

    […] Osama bin Laden’s Death: A Time to Reflect, Not Celebrate. […]

  22. Peace says:

    Totally agreed with the writter. Hatred to be ended . Taking revenge will never end hatred and it will continues. This world will not have peace.

  23. Newark Mayor, Cory Booker, wrote on his FB/Twitter yesterday – and resonates for me:

    He is dead. It was necessary and just. But I won't rejoice. I honor the memory of all terror victims and recommit to the difficult work of peace…

  24. […] At Elephant, Jon DiGilio offers that it’s “A Time to Reflect, Not Celebrate.” […]

  25. Jim says:

    We, meaning the U.S., did an excellent job of deamonizing bin Laden while not listening to him at all. I wonder how many of us would take up arms and lead a revolution if we were invaded and our way of life threatened?


  26. NICK CHAN says:

    There are many religious perspectives on this issue. Most religion would agree that karma has come around and that Osama Bin Ladin deserved to die and that it is a "good thing" Although I did not feel and experience the attack on the Twin Towers, I am sure all of us want justice and revenge over the thousands or more families he killed. This I agree. However, we forget about our righteousness and our religion. Have we succumb to hatred that even the very compassion that we obtain has left us? Religion also tells us of grace and forgiveness. In this world its hard to forgive, but celebrating over a dead person who killed is just the same attitude of the long going conflict and fights that rages. Haven't Christian taught not to despise people especially when they are dead even thought one has done a extreme sinful thing? I know that some of you do not except it, but the more you celebrate, the more we become like him or, at least in our hearts.

  27. Barbara 不真 says:

    “[I]t is God whose help and forgiveness we seek and whose name we uphold against our own evil and our wrongdoings.” (August 1996)
    “As to you my children, forgive me because I’ve given you only a little of my time since I answered the jihad call.”
    Osama Bin Laden

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