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A view on bin Laden’s death

May 3, 2011

Like many others around the world, I’ve been following the news and social streams covering Osama bin Laden’s execution. One of the more interesting aspects has been the scenes of people gathering to celebrate outside the White House, chants of “U-S-A” from 40,000 fans at a Phillies-Mets game, etc. Some are outraged that anyone – anywhere – should react with such enthusiasm over the death of another human being. Others have called it vengeful and disgraceful. Perhaps, they are right to some extent… but I think they fail to grasp a fundamental aspect of the American psyche.

Individual responsibility and accountability are at the heart of what it means to be American. These characteristics manifest themselves in different ways. Politically, it’s a 200+ year debate about what role the government should play in “taking care” of the citizenry. The longstanding battle over universal healthcare wasn’t just about how to pay for it and the impact on private enterprise. For many, it was really about the individual’s right to make their own decisions (good or bad) and live with those consequences. In an emergency, like 9-11 or the recent extreme weather in the South, individual responsibility meant reaching out to your neighbors and helping the community through the disaster.

In that light, the reaction to bin Laden’s death is neither joyful or vengeful, it is fitting. A 10 year quest to hold accountable the individual responsible for the horrific deaths of thousands of Americans has come to a close. It’s a mix of relief, pride and a sense that justice has been served.

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From → Life, Politics

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