When Jews celebrate the Passover we are told over and over again in the Haggadah (the retelling of the story of the Exodus) that God and the Jewish people took no pleasure at all by the 10th and final of God's terrible plagues -- the slaying of the first born Egyptians -- even when that plague set the children of Israel free. Of course this is simply a story BUT it is one with profound implications for the discussion.
For ten years after the 9/11 attack, the felling of those huge towers in New York City and the slaughter of nearly 3000 innocent human beings, I checked my computer every single morning after the attack with the hope that the perpetrator of that great evil was killed. I searched my computer in vain because it never happened. Until one night around 10:00 p.m.,10 years after the attack, while watching MSNBC, president Obama asked the press to assemble on quick order. No one knew why. Excitement was in the air accompanied by fear. Could it be another terrorist attack or god forbid a nuclear threat? No. It was the answer for which I had been waiting 10 long years. The US, indeed, killed bin Laden the leader who perpetrated the most vicious attack on the American homeland since Pearl Harbor. I was ECSTATIC. I woke everyone up in my house, called every friend and cried with joy.
Then I stopped celebrating. What about that story in the Haggadah that was told by my father leading our sedars so many years ago? What about the 3000 who would never be brought back to life even though Bin Laden was dead? What about the invasion of a country that did nothing to us slaughtering thousands, sending more into exile and worse destabilizing a tinderbox part of the world? What about the loss of our precious civil liberties the bedrock of what truly makes our nation exceptional?
I do not know the answers to those questions but I still, even now, when I ask those questions and despite remembering the teachings of the Passover feel a sense of pride that American strength is like no other. Perhaps revenge is basic to human nature, maybe even hate is part of our viscera; whatever it is I cheered at Bin Laden's death and I am glad this president gave the order to kill him.