Osama, Obama, and Twitter

By Betsy Shirley 05-04-2011

Seconds after news of Osama bin Laden's death, I logged on to Twitter and watched the 140-character updates roll in.

The first wave of tweets were straightforward: "Osama bin Laden is dead. @BarackObama to address the nation shortly." or "House Intelligence committee aide confirms that Osama Bin Laden is dead. U.S. has the body."

While the twitterverse waited for Obama to address the nation, some tweets became snarky ("Hm. Will Trump demand to see the long-form death certificate?") or even alarmed ("Am I the only person that's worried about revenge on the US?").

Yet, as reports of celebratory crowds high-fiving and cheering at the White House and Ground Zero trickled in, I was struck by the following tweet from Mennonite minister Hugh Hollowell, retweeted by Sojourners columnist Gareth Higgins: "'Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind,' - John Donne." Wow. Among tweets of "Good Riddance," "Mission Accomplished!" and " *toasts*," the contrast could not have been more profound.

Other voices soon chimed in: A friend retweeted "what Jesus said" with a link to Matthew 5:43-48: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

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