Monday, May 2, 2011

A Time To Celebrate

As the country learned of the death of Osama Bin Laden late last night, a furry of emotions was likely felt by many. Happiness, fear, relief, shock, sadness, anger... those are just a few of the emotions that many of us experienced when we heard the news. I expected that there would be those who would use this victory to discredit President Obama because for some there is nothing that man can do to be worthy of praise and respect. I enjoyed the jokes about verifying Bin Laden's "long form" death certificate at the request of Donald Trump, I even wrote a few myself. What I didn't expect, and what ultimately led me to write this blog, was the criticism of those who took to the streets in New York and DC to celebrate the death of Bin Laden.

I actually wished I was back home in DC last night to celebrate the news. You see I was in DC on 9/11. I remember being on the streets near the Capitol when it was being evacuated with all the other staffers not quite sure what was happening as we all ducked when a plane flew above us. I remember two hours later how eerily silent the city seemed to be as people went home to watch the news reports and mourn such a tragedy. I remember the nervous chatter surrounding us on the patio as we drank beers to deal with the shock of what happened. So, you see, if I was in DC last night I too would have taken to the streets.

But last night before I went to bed and again this morning, I read countless posts on FB, criticizing and mocking those people who took to the streets to celebrate the death of Bin Laden. I can understand if you personally wouldn't want to celebrate the death of anyone, but when did it become OK to tell others how to feel?

In this country we like to tell people what to do. We tell people how they should live, who they should marry, and when they should have a child. But when did we decide that it was OK to tell people how to feel?

And it's not just the death of Bin Laden and the subsequent celebrations that has led me to feel as though my rights to my feelings are being invaded. I know friends who post on FB about racism and oppression and they often get accused of being angry! When a white privileged spoiled brat from UCLA made a YouTube video insulting Asian Americans I was told by a few people that we should not be angry with her! Why don't I have the right to be angry at an adult who made insulting public statements for the world to see? Why don't people who engage in the struggle against racism and oppression have the right to be angry about what they see happening in the world?

I understand that feelings can lead to a response, a response that could be positive or negative. People were angry after the verdict in the Rodney King trial and their response was destruction and looting. That is not a good response for dealing with anger. Many teens who struggle with their sexual identity feel sad and depressed from being tormented by their peers and sometimes they respond by committing suicide. That is not a good response for dealing with sadness and depression. But don't people have a right to be angry? A right to be sad? A right to be depressed?

Emotional regulation begins with recognizing your emotion and choosing a proper response for dealing with the emotion. So you can feel anger and then decide to respond by writing a blog, or bitching to a friend, or you can take to the streets and engage in a civil peaceful demonstration, or you can destroy property and even hurt someone. But you have to first acknowledge that you are angry before you can choose a response.

So last night people felt a wave of emotions and their response was to join others in the streets who were also feeling a wave of emotions. Did they riot and loot? I don't think so. Did they hurt or kill anybody? Not that I heard. But yet they are being mocked, made fun, and blamed for their choice to express their emotions.

Those who have criticized and mocked and made fun of the celebrations, argue that public celebration can lead to retaliation. Do you think terrorists need a reason to retaliate? We killed their leader... I'm sure that's reason enough, besides the fact they hate America. I've heard arguments that question why we should celebrate death. Call me crazy but the man who masterminded the death of 3,000 Americans and probably would have continued killing people all over the world, deserved to die. So what's wrong with celebrating his death? I've also heard the argument that Bin Laden was trained in the US and those who celebrate his death are ignorant about history. Most people are ignorant about history, but I don't care if Bin Laden got his PhD in How to be a Terrorist from Harvard, that doesn't change what he did. Is the US responsible for him and other terrorist who were trained on US soil, probably but that's not what this is about. Almost 10 years ago one man masterminded the worse terrorist attack this country has ever seen and he is now dead.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't believe in war. I did not then, and I do not now, feel as though the US was justified in invading Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. I think the proper response to 9/11 would have been to go after Al Q'ueda. Can this be done without declaring war on entire country... well it must be possible since we killed Bin Laden in Pakistan! In my opinion the wars were unjustified and probably did more to instill even more hatred of America and produce even more future terrorists.

But last night wasn't about the wars. President Obama didn't send us into war. He worked with our military to engage in a mission that ultimately killed Bin Laden. And after hearing the news people felt a plethora of emotions and some took to the street to celebrate. I will not dare tell any of these people how they should feel. Their response was not violent and did not physically hurt anyone. I will not make fun of them or criticize them for their decision to celebrate the death of a monster.

Osama Bin Laden will NEVER cause the death of another human being. People might retaliate in his name but, he, himself will NEVER hurt or kill anybody ever again. Because he's dead. And I think that's a reason to celebrate.