The news of Osama bin Laden's death rippled across social networking sites Sunday night. As I scrolled through my news feed, I witnessed my internet community express their delight and celebration over the death of America's "enemy," and I was surprised to see such blatant euphoria. I went down to the White House as thousands gathered in near hysteria, chanting, yelling, and waving oversized U.S. flags through the night air, tepid with the thick swell of the energetic joy of the young crowd. People switched between chanting "Yes We Can" and singing "The Star Spangled Banner" with high pitched hoots and hollers.
I stood in the midst of the fray and contemplated what this reaction meant for us as Americans, and for some of us who follow the lead of a regular carpenter who celebrated peace and justice and who had a knack for turning things inside out. Jesus said the peacemaker would be blessed, and he urged people to do such brash things as turn the other cheek, give more than what is asked of you, go the extra mile, and love your enemy.
When I heard of Osama bin Laden's death, a man responsible for the death of thousands of lives in the United States and many more in the Middle East, I looked at this moment through the lens of my own experiences walking amongst conflict areas around the world as a documentary filmmaker and photographer.
I, like many of us, yearn for an end to despotic violence and unnecessary and senseless pain. Right now, a terrorist named Joseph Kony is ravaging central Africa with his army of child soldiers. If Kony were killed, would I rejoice? Hundreds of children would presumably be invited into freedom. Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army would potentially cease wreaking havoc.
But I hope I would respond differently. I would expect to feel relief -- tempered relief that this man would not perpetrate any more violence. And I hope my next emotion would be sadness that a fuller portrait of justice was not possible.
In the case of Osama bin Laden, a man who was not currently the operational head of al Qaeda, nor responsible daily for al Qaeda's activities, his death does not mean an end to extremist violence.
The debacle of 9/11 led to the last 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden's death does not rectify the thousands of American, Iraqi, and Afghani lives lost in this pursuit. I do not think we have achieved peace.
And certainly we are no closer to peace through our own celebrations of violence and even indulging in it ourselves. The hatred I have witnessed in people's words and exclamations over the death of Osama bin Laden is just as riddled with violence as the violence we protest against. And until that changes, true peace cannot be possible.
Lindsay Branham lived in Central Africa for 18 months following the crisis of child soldiers while working as a writer and photographer. Lindsay is currently the Programs Director and Senior Producer of DTJ (www.DTJ.org), is an international documentary filmmaker and photographer, and is co-directing a feature documentary about two child soldiers in eastern DRC. To see more of Lindsay's work go to www.LindsayBranham.com.