9:10 on a Sunday night.
It had been a busy day. Youth Sunday services in the morning and a rehearsal for a Wednesday Night youth fundraiser in the evening. Rain all day. Allergies causing distress. Benedryl settling into my system for the night.
Laptop open in front of me. One Google Chrome tab holding Facebook. One Google Chrome tab on my site so I could proofread the next day’s post. Tweetdeck open and buzzing in the background.
A tweet from one of the news outlets: “POTUS to speak at 9:30. Subject unknown.”
Me to Jason: “The President is addressing the nation in 20 minutes. That’s strange, right?”
Tweetdeck open exclusively now. More tweets.
What happened over the next hour was extraordinary from a social media standpoint. The tweets and retweets flew by.
“POTUS addressing the nation on National Security.”
“My money’s on Libya”
“POTUS speech about national security, not about Libya.”
“It’s not Libya.”
“This announcement better live up to the hype. I want to go to bed, but now I’m waiting.”
“I bet it’s Bin Laden.”
“US Official has confirmed that we killed Bin Laden.”
“Pentagon official confirms that we killed Bin Laden.”
“Donald Rumsfeld confirms that the US has killed Bin Laden. We have the body.”
And then the snark and arguments started–Obama was waiting until the firing ceremony on Celebrity Apprentice, numerous tweets about needing to see the long-form death certificate, he’s just finishing what Bush started, someone find Toby Keith and get him to the recording studio…
It went on and on. While I watched Tweetdeck light up, Wolf Blitzer and the other talking heads on CNN rambled for an hour on the television in our bedroom. Sometimes I muted them. Sometimes I listened. Basically, they spent an hour saying, “I don’t want to speculate, but what do you think it could be?” and then “We don’t want to break the news before the President.” And then, finally, when almost the whole world knew what it was because they had already read it on Twitter or Facebook, “Osama Bin Laden Dead” splashed across the screen.
We waited and waited for President Obama to appear. And then we waited some more. I could physically feel my anxiety level rising. At one point, I tweeted “I’m hoping this POTUS announcement doesn’t live up to the hype on CNN. They are scaring me!” As news about Bin Laden started to spread and then as it was confirmed over and over by various news organizations, cheers and congratulations rang out on Twitter and Facebook.
My first reaction? Relief. Relief because the news wasn’t all of the things I thought it could be. Relief because enemy #1 was finally dead and couldn’t kill anyone else.
Second reaction? This isn’t over. Enemy #1 is dead, but that just means Enemy #2 moved up in ranks. Terrorism won’t die with Bin Laden. This may make things worse.
And then as everyone celebrated and cheered online and in the streets of DC, as various friends made jokes about Bin Laden being bad at hide and seek and as other friends declared joy over “Osama burning in Hell,” I became confused and unsettled. It wasn’t a “holier than thou” or self-righteous type of feeling. It was more of a “this just doesn’t feel right,” feeling. I updated Facebook with Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:44 (Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you). It wasn’t Christian showboating–it was a reminder to myself about Jesus’ words in light of this situation.
After all, as evil as Osama Bin Laden’s actions were and as terrible as his legacy is…
…he was created in God’s image. Just like me. Just like you. His death may be a relief and it will be cathartic for many victims and survivors, but is it something to revel in and celebrate? Is it okay to cheer if you believe this man is now burning in Hell? Is this justice?
I don’t begrudge you your feelings–whatever they are. I have a lot of wonderful, faithful friends who are all reacting in a variety of ways this morning. There are a lot of perspectives and viewpoints represented and I don’t think mine are better than yours. To me, this situation is difficult. I don’t know how to respond or react. I dread each new person I run into today because there’s a good chance this will come up and I don’t really want to discuss it yet. I think I need to live in the ambiguity and questions for now.
No matter what our viewpoints, I hope we can join each other in praying for peace.