I’m sure you’ve heard the news — Osama bin Laden has been killed, and his body is held in the United States. I’m not someone who can speak insightfully to the political, military, or diplomatic facets here. I’m just a guy who was on the phone with his wife when she said, “Hey, it looks like bin Laden is dead. They say the president will be speaking in a few minutes.” I’m visiting my parents tonight, so we turned on the TV to ABC News and waited for about half an hour.
During the wait, ABC showed video footage of bin Laden while the commentators talked about what this means. My first emotional response was when I realized that he was just a guy too, walking through the mountains, hugging his friends, sitting in a room, etc. That’s not to say that he wasn’t a terrorist mass murderer. He killed thousands of innocent people. I have no sympathy for him here. I just recognized that in addition to being a terrorist mass murderer, he is also a human being, living life like a human being.
Then, just as President Obama came on, my kids ran in and asked for their bedtime cereal. So I grudgingly got up from viewing the president’s historic address to pour two bowls of Corn Pops. I took the kids their cereal, and went back to listen to the president’s speech (which was, in my opinion, just great). While listening him, I looked at my kids and I suddenly realized that they are why this event matters. They are the reason that the nation is gathered to their TVs and computer screens tonight.
In Silverton, Oregon, where I lived for a year, there is a building that has four murals painted on it — Norman Rockwell’sFour Freedoms, depicting the four freedoms identified by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. We in the USA are familiar with the first two freedoms, since they come from our Bill of Rights. The other two — freedom from want and freedom from fear — however, aren’t enshrined in any constitutional documents.
Bin Laden’s death represents a world where my kids can eat Corn Pops, and where I can be irritated that I have to get them Corn Pops when I’d rather be watching TV. His death symbolizes a world where my greatest inconveniences are measured in seconds rather than years; where I can participate in a nation and global economy of trade, peace, and emotional security. It’s a luxury for me to listen to them whine when I put them to bed, just for the fact that I have warm, safe beds for them, and for myself. It’s a luxury for me to complain about gas being $4.16 a gallon, since that means I have a car and places to go. Bin Laden’s death won’t bring back the lives of those he killed. My hope, however, is that it will serve as a reminder to us that we can be grateful to have the luxury of dealing with the kinds of inconveniences we face here in America, to remind us that early morning seminary and burned cookies are blessings, because they mean that we’re not facing ideological repression and physical starvation.