When Is Celebrating Violence And Death Appropriate?

When we celebrate bin Laden's death, aren't we acting like bin Laden?

When our Navy seals attacked the compound where Osama bin Laden was living and killed him, along with three others, was it appropriate that some of us celebrated his death? Observing the celebration through the media, for some reason, resulted in me feeling uncomfortable. It didn’t seem right that we were celebrating as though we had just won World War 2. The killing of bin Laden, as our government has informed us, doesn’t mean we have won the war on terrorism. What does the killing of bin Laden, along with three others in the compound, really mean?

Osama bin Laden in 1995. Should we celebrate his death and the violence?

Should we celebrate death? Should we celebrate violence? For some reason, as I wrote the previous two questions, I felt uneasy putting the word celebrate next to death and violence. Why? I don’t know, other than it just doesn’t seem right. There is something coming from my subconscious or in my conscience that causes me discomfort when I think about celebrating violence and death.

There are other similar instances that I see no reason for, and find no pleasure in celebrating. One such instance is the execution of a human by lethal injection, hanging, guillotine, firing squad, or any other means. As you can imagine, I’m not in favor of the death penalty.

You're hurt and they're cheering! Why?

There are many demonstrations of violence where celebration seems inappropriate to me. For example, consider the case of a crowd cheering for an exceptionally violent encounter in an American football game that results in a serious injury to a player. The player who caused the injury celebrates and the crowd cheers, while the hurt player lies there with a possible life-threatening injury. Once, while attending a professional football game in St. Louis, I saw a player take a “hard-hit,” resulting in him having to be carried-off of the playing field on a stretcher. When they showed the replay of the hard-hit on the 20′ x 26′ color Sony Jumbotron screen, the crowd cheered. Why?

The guillotine - during the French Revolution many were decapitated while onlookers celebrated.

In my previous example, it seemed to me that the crowd was cheering violence. I’ll have to admit that I felt, somewhere in me, the same need to cheer the violent act. But, I didn’t. Why? Because, somewhere in my conscience, it just didn’t seem like something I wanted to, or should, do. Was the crowd cheering the “violent hit” as nothing more than an innocuous release of emotion? I don’t know, but when I observe such events, I can’t help but wonder if this is what it was like when Jesus Christ was dying. Or, were the crowds reacting the same way the French did while watching people being decapitated during the French Revolution. Why do (some) humans cheer violence?

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am not equating Osama bin Laden, Jesus Christ and football players that receive “violent hits.” It’s just very confusing for me to understand the celebration of violence and/or death. In the case of bin Laden, he preached hatred and celebrated the deaths he was responsible for on 9/11. And, of course, most of the criminals we have put to death were convicted of evil crimes and many of us feel it’s an appropriate punishment. Though, perhaps an appropriate punishment, I personally believe that under no circumstances and no matter how terrible the crime is, should we ever celebrate when a criminal is put to death. That includes Osama bin Laden.

There were some who celebrated M. L. King's assassination. Was that appropriate?

So, what should we do when someone like Osama bin Laden is killed? Celebrate his death? No! Pray? Perhaps! Have a “death” party? No! Quiet reflection? Yes! Shed tears that express relief? Yes! Brag? No! Remember those killed by bin Laden? Yes! . . .

Ok, I imagine you can see what I think we should do. This isn’t an argument for what YOU should think we should do. I am unsure what should be done by US. I’m only expressing a point of view that comes from my heart. Like many, I have a part of me that wants to celebrate the death of this man who was responsible for so many deaths. And, I also have the desire to celebrate the justice rendered by our Navy seals, along with the likelihood of less violence from bin Laden’s followers. Still, celebration just doesn’t seem right!

Emotionally, I’m sincerely mixed-up regarding the whole issue of the death of bin Laden. I, like most Americans, believe the entire world is better off without the likes of Osama bin Laden. Like most Americans, I felt a euphoric rush when I heard the news that he had been found and killed. That rush was genuine, but brief. In a few minutes it change to one big sigh of relief. After watching about ten minutes of television, on which I observed different celebrations throughout the United States, my feeling of relief changed to uneasiness.

Mary McCarthy: “In violence, we forget who we are.”

So, when is celebrating violence and death appropriate? For me, I can’t think of an appropriate event. For you, I just don’t know. I do think we all should seriously consider that maybe violence and death are not something to celebrate. Perhaps, with the realistic television shows, movies and virtual reality games we now have, our perception of violence and death has become desensitized. And, maybe our view of the specialness and preciousness of life is no longer realistic. No matter who experiences violence or death, it is always a calamity for someone.

“In violence, we forget who we are.”Mary McCarthy

Please, think about it!

2 Comments on “When Is Celebrating Violence And Death Appropriate?”

  1. Ron:

    I agree with most of what you say about celebrating death.

    However, if the case Osama bin Laden, I’ll make an exception.

    To capture and bring him back,to where?, and for trial, where and when, would have been added burdens and expense.

    His killing brought closure to many.

    Thanks for the thought provoking Post.


  2. Fred:

    Thanks for the comment. I agree with your point regarding the capture of bin Laden compared to killing him.

    My uncomfortableness was with the celebration of his death. Is it appropriate to celebrate his, or anyone else’s, death? It’s a question that I don’t necessarily have an answer to for all of us. I only know I don’t want to celebrate death or violence.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful comment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: