Monday, May 2, 2011


Today is Monday, May 2 - the day following the news of the death of Osama bin Laden.  When I heard the news last night, I was relieved that this man will no longer be able to terrorize other human beings.  Yes, his organization (Al Qaeda) will still exist, but since Osama bin Laden was its founder and leader, hopefully his death will impact Al Qaeda negatively even if it doesn't dissolve completely (which would be the preferred outcome).  Of course, the impact that his death will have on the world and Al Qaeda remains to be seen.  Regardless, though, I agree with President Obama who said that "this is a good day for America."

After hearing the news and listening to the President's speech, I was astounded when I went on Facebook and saw the mixed reactions.  Some comments were positive and expressed relief and happiness as well as gratitude that Osama bin Laden had finally been brought to justice.  But other comments were somewhat negative, expressing feelings like "So what?" Some comments even said that he was "old news" and the only thing this did was to make him a martyr, basically inferring that it really didn't matter.  I disagree.  I think this is a very big deal, and is a positive development in the war against terrorism.  It may have taken almost 10 years after 9/11 to eliminate the evil forces that Osama bin Laden was hoisting on the world, but I see the fact that he is now dead and gone as very positive and encouraging.

This morning on my way to work, I was on a bus in downtown Denver, and a fellow passenger (male) was having a conversation with the bus driver.  During their exchange, the passenger said, "A man is dead, and we shouldn't be having a parade about it."  While I agree that death is not something to necessarily celebrate, I do feel that in this instance there is some jubilation inherent in the situation.  An evil man who masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 is now dead.  That is a good thing.  And even though I don't believe that the Book of Mormon is either true or actual scripture anymore, I do think the philosophy behind one of its scriptures does fit this occasion (namely, 1 Nephi 4:11-13) - and to paraphase it, "It is better for one man to perish than for an entire world to live in fear and terror."  In certain circumstances, I believe retaliation and vengance are in order.  And to me, this is one of them.

The man on the bus also asked, "What about turning the other cheek?," saying that the death of Osama bin Laden was not condoned by Jesus Christ or the New Testament.  The bus driver answered by saying that scripture does not apply in the situation.  He said that Christianity requires its followers to be humble, forgiving and to turn the other cheek when they are wronged.  But when the harm being perpetuated on that person is both harsh and repeated, they would be foolish not to retalitate and that Jesus Christ does not require them to be push-overs.  And I agree completely with what this man said.  Obviously killing Osama bin Laden will not bring back the people who have been killed because of his actions, but keeping him alive only makes his actions continue and the threat that he posed more looming and dangerous. 

In perusing articles on the internet, I came across one on, which I found to be very interesting.  That article is entitled, "The Limits of  'Turn the Other Cheek,' and in it, the author says the following:
The doctrine of nonviolence advocated by Martin Luther King is most commonly associated with the New Testament, specifically with Jesus' statement in the Sermon on the Mount: "Offer the wicked man no resistance.  On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well." (Matthew 5:38-39)

Although one might think that the example cited by Jesus (being slapped by a violent person) is uncommon, in fact it occurs quite often.  Many women, and a smaller number of men, are married to, or live with, a partner who slaps and beats them.  Does one counsel such people to accept abuse, to offer the other cheek, or rather tell them to immediately leave the relationship, and perhaps file a criminal complaint? I believe that the latter course - which rejects Jesus' advice both to "resist not evil" and to offer the other cheek - is not only more effective but also more moral.

It's worth noting that Jesus speaks of offering your other cheek to one who slaps you – a painful but not normally life-threatening circumstance.  It's not clear that he's also advocating that you allow yourself to be murdered rather than fight back.

Yet in the 20th century, people from Leo Tolstoy to Mahatma Gandhi interpreted Jesus' words to mean that one should be willing to die rather than fight back against a would-be killer.  I find this reading of the New Testament to be troublesome.  In any situation in which a would-be murderer confronts a potential victim, I believe that the world is a better place if the would-be murderer, rather than the intended victim, emerges dead from the encounter.  As Thomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia and a great humanist, said in response to Tolstoy: "If someone attacks me with the intention of killing me, I shall defend myself, and if I cannot avoid it, I shall kill the attacker.  If one of us must be killed, let the one be killed who has the bad intentions."

While I think it is important that violence not be perpetuated, and that every slight should not be met with instant retaliation, I also think that people need to use their heads and decide when violence and retaliation are necessary.  Showing violent people that they are not dealing with a doormat is an important signal to send.  It shows that while others may not be looking for a fight, they are not going to turn away from such an altercation if the situation warrants it.

Time will tell what impact the death of Osama bin Laden will actually have on the world.  It may have none.  Al Qaeda may go forward, business as usual.  But at least the messages have been sent that we will not sit by idly and "turn the other cheek" - and that we as Americans are not doormats.  Those are very important messages to be sent and received.

Like I said in a Facebook post last night, "Whether or not bin Laden's death has any 'strategic importance in the long run' is really immaterial.  It is an important step in the war against terrorism, and it is very important for America in general, and the people who lost family members on 9/11 in particular." 

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