Is America’s joyful reaction then a sign that we have strayed toward darkness? Were the crowds of chanting, hooting, dancing youth in Washington and New York actually America’s equivalent of the so-called angry Arab Street, which, egged on by the ideological compatriots of bin Laden, burn American flags, behead effigies of our leaders, and chant “Death to America”?I agree.
Absolutely not. In fact, the surface similarities serve only to highlight just how opposite are their meanings and motivations. The celebrations across America did not glorify death. In fact, they weren’t really about death at all. The crowds didn’t lynch effigies of bin Laden; they didn’t burn Korans or trample the flags of Muslim nations; they didn’t raise armed soldiers on their shoulders or shoot rifles into the air; they didn’t chant for vengeance or death to other nations, peoples, or religions. No, these crowds of all races and creeds came together and raised American flags, sang patriotic songs, drank and made merry, embraced and shook one another’s hand. They did not glorify death, but rather affirmed life — their own lives and the life of their country at its moment of great victory over an enemy dedicated to bringing death to its shores.
That enemy was not just Osama bin Laden the man. It was the real, operational threat he posed to the life of every single American citizen around the world. And it was the organization, the mission, and the very ideology of terror that he represented and of which he had willfully and masterfully made himself the ultimate symbol during his decades-long career. The moral confusion about the issue has come about because the end to all three of these different conceptions of the bin Laden enemy — the man, the threat, the symbol — occurred simultaneously rather than separately, as they did, for instance, in the case of America’s last encounter with a larger-than-life evil: Saddam Hussein.
Also, I think we're getting a little carried away about how we're viewing those people who were celebrating in the streets last week. In social psychology there is the concept of actor-observer bias, wherein people who are present in a situation attribute the causes of their behavior to stimuli inherent in the situation, and observers tend to attribute causes for behavior to the actors themselves. This concept goes to the heart of social psychology - how there are social tensions that create circumstances that have great effects on our behavior.
Most of what came out last weekend I think is attributable to mob behaviors. And I think most of us would have acted similarly if we were present with those people. People get in a group and they feed off one another until their reactions are completely different than what they would otherwise be if they were by themselves.
However, as was mentioned before and in my previous post, I don't think people were just celebrating the death of human being. I think they were mostly excited at the resurgence of American power and the arrival of some long overdue justice.