Khaya Dlanga

Should we rejoice when evil men die?

2011-05-04 07:53

Of course I am very much aware of the fact that some will ask who is to decide who is evil and who isn’t. Each side engaged in an ideological battle believes that it is in the right and that the other side is evil. Depending on what position one holds, one’s views will vary on the matter.

Osama bin Laden was a man who cared for no life. We cannot even say that he only cared for Muslim life because his organisation killed many Muslims. So it is no surprise then that African life meant nothing to him as long as his objectives were met. Africans were mere necessary collateral in his fight. Though poor and completely innocent in his war, the lives of the 212 Africans he took in Kenya in 1998 meant nothing to him, as long as the objectives of his al Qaeda were met. They were sacrificed for a cause he was doomed to lose.

What has been has been; none of our protestations will reverse what has happened. Osama is dead. But should those who were wronged by his actions celebrate? Before we delve into the question, perhaps we look at how the world views the United States.

The United States is viewed with much suspicion by large parts of the world. This is a self-created unfortunate position it finds itself in as a direct result of some of its actions over many years. Even if America’s actions may be just, there will always be some suspicion. Can their actions ever be just? It is in an unwinnable position in the global public relations platform.

Considering the conclusions that have been made about Osama - that he was responsible for the 9/11 attacks - are those who are rejoicing right to rejoice? It has to be said no. Rejoicing at the death of one’s purported enemy, one reduces themselves to the same level of that enemy. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

It could be argued that some of those who were celebrating were celebrating justice and closer and not the actual death of Osama bin Laden, although there were many who did celebrate the death. The two should be distinguished. We like to paint all Americans with the same brush. “Americans are stupid.” “Americans are dumb.” I bet they hate that as much as we hate it when they show Africans as starving, malnourished, jungle dwelling tribes who love killing each other.

One can celebrate justice but one should not celebrate death. Although sometimes the line can be thin between the two. In this case, there is a prevailing view that America views its might as justice.

“Justice” According to the famed philosopher Pascal, “is subject to dispute; might is easily recognised and is not disputed. So we cannot give might to justice. Because might has gainsaid justice, and has declared that it is she herself who is just. And thus being unable to make what is just strong, we have made what is strong just.”

Those who celebrated ought to remember Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address where he humbly made the speech after his Union armies defeated the slave supporting “in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” He went on to say, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

Americans should not gloat at this death. It only angers those who feel that America is hell-bent on destroying them. Instead there should be humility and self-reflection as opposed to self-congratulatory bravado. There should be building and honouring those who died a senseless death on September 11.

America should shock the world by being humble. But I’m afraid it may be too late.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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