Is It Okay to Show Kids That You’re Happy Osama’s Dead?
May 5, 2011
My husband and I have always taught two daughters that violence is wrong. Thou shalt not even hit, let alone kill. Yet we couldn’t help cheering ourselves hoarse over bin Laden’s execution this week, for deeply personal reasons. On 9-11, my husband had been working in a building next to Twin Towers. After a frantic evacuation, he found himself in the hell of Ground Zero. A piece of a crashed airplane roared in flames as panicked people ran for their lives. Luckily he made it back to our apartment, followed by my coughing, sobbing, younger sister, who’d been working nearby as well. She was covered in thick white dust that reeked of chemicals. Three months later, at age 29, she developed an aggressive cancer. At 37, she died. Coincidence? I’ll never know.
So yes, for me and my husband, bin Laden’s death is cause for celebration. But are our children entitled to feel that way too? Clara, now 10, had been a toddler on 9-11; her 7-year-old sister Genie came along well after. Yet they’ve picked up on our vengeful joy. “Yay! Osama’s dead!” they’ve shouted all week, high-fiving when his face flashes on the news. I know I started the ball rolling...but still, I’m troubled by my girls’ glee-by-association. The best families share—but do they share everything, including the satisfaction of seeing a decade-old score settled? Have my husband and I done right by not hiding our emotions, even though we’ve now cast a shade of gray into our family’s formerly black-and-white code of ethics?
What do you think? How have you, as a family, sorted through this milestone event? Yet another complicated question for a complicated era — the one that Osama and his co-conspirators ushered in on that bright September morning so long ago, but so vividly remembered.