If I had been an impulsive DC area college student, I'm sure I would have run out in my pajama pants with the rest of my dorm to whoop it up in front of the White House. It's possible that had I lost a loved one in New York I would have assembled at the WTC or posted a Facebook status using words I wouldn't want my mother to read. But when Osama bin Laden was reported killed I was sitting on my couch working on my laptop, safe and secure within my suburban house. I wasn't sure what I felt. It wasn't joy. It wasn't sadness.
Of course part of me was glad he was dead. I'd love to treat Navy Seal Team 6 to a nice steak dinner for their bravery and service to my country. But the bigger part of me was sad that such evil exists in our world to begin with. I was sad that a person could end up as evil as bin Laden and thus never experience redemption. I wasn't surprised by all the people, many of them professing Christianity, tweeting and messaging their joy that Osama is burning in Hell. I agree that he deserves it. But then again, so do I.
And some part of me was bothered by the celebratory nature of the crowd outside the White House. Almost immediately my mind jumped to the crowds in the Middle East celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers a decade ago. One group was a crowd of young adults for whom Osama bin Laden was the villain overshadowing their formative years, the other a mob raised on a putrid diet of comic books and leaders teaching that America is the "Great Satan" responsible for the evil in the world. At the base of it all is hate and a tale as old as time. Throughout history we have vilified those different than us, whether those "other" were actual villains or not. Our nature is to divide, to cabal, to sling mud. It's us vs. them, Jews vs. Gentile, black vs. white, dog people vs. cat people, butter side up vs. butter side down.
I'm not a purveyor of moral equivalence - I do realize there is real evil in the world - but I am left as a Christian parent to raise my children to hate what is evil while clinging to what is good without denigration. I wonder how to balance teaching them that enemies exist while teaching them to not rejoice when their enemy falls, to not let their hearts be glad when he stumbles. Can we truly love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and do good to those who hate us? Some do. I hope my children can, but in the back of my mind I know that the reason they as Americans can more easily rise to that occasion is that people like Seal Team 6 are busy in the world, protecting their right to do so.