I was taken aback by the celebratory reactions to Osama bin Laden’s death. I watched people chanting U-S-A in sportsman spirit and rejoicing outside the White House. Unfortunately, in some parts of the country, messages of hate were directed towards Muslims. While President Obama was clear in his message that bin Laden’s death was not an attack on Islam, post 9/11 government policies on immigration and “counter-terrorism” have had a huge undertone of racism.
So were the celebratory chants of vengeance appropriate? Some certainly don’t think so.
In trying to sort out what bin Laden’s death means, I found myself saddened by the “us vs. them” reactions. “Us vs. them” doesn’t get us where we want to go. As Nelson Mandela said upon his release from prison:
“We enter into a covenant that
we shall build a society in which all South Africans,
both black and white,
will be able to walk tall,
without…fear in their hearts,
assured of their inalienable right to human dignity
– a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
Nelson Mandela’s release could have caused a backlash for white South Africans. But instead, he urged all South Africans to work together to build a diverse and stronger nation.
In Mandela’s words, I found some clarity. Bin Laden’s death does not mean that we return to a pre-9/11 world. What it means is that we need to move past “us vs. them” and work together.
We have to unite with citizens and immigrants alike in the fight for immigrant rights; and
We have to unite with Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the fight for religious freedom; and
We have to unite with LGBTQ people and straight allies alike in the fight for equality; and
We have to unite with men and women alike in the fight for gender equality and relationships without violence.
Because uniting to protect each others’ rights does not threaten or diminish our own.