Opinion: Should we celebrate in face of tragedy?

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere is a junior journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

After the killing and capture of the two brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, elated crowds gathered in the Boston area to cheer this victory. But was this celebratory, united behavior beautiful or barbaric?

What do these public displays of American pride truly say about America as a country and its citizens as people?

Even though this type of behavior is nothing new — Americans celebrated the death of dictators such as Hitler and Stalin — I got my first real taste of the outpouring of American pride when Osama bin Laden was killed May 2, 2011. Enormous crowds gathered outside the White House and Ground Zero to cheer the death of this ruthless leader.

While it was natural to feel a sense of relief that bin Laden was unable to harm anyone else by his direct hand, the outpouring of “USA” chants and boastful mockery that followed the announcement of his death mimics the very behaviors by which we are disgusted. When we see video footage of foreigners cheering terrorist attacks against the United States, we ignore their insistence that they celebrate only because we have long occupied their nations and killed many of their innocent people. Instead, we see only bloodlust.

I would argue these people could look upon our joyous celebrations over bin Laden, or now the death and capture of the Boston bombers, as a display of bloodlust as well, when really we celebrate for the victory over destruction, much like they do.

I find unease with the raucous victory celebrations, not only for their hypocritical undertones but also for the moral implications.

I appreciated ethicist Diana Butler Bass’ statement about the celebrations of bin Laden’s death in a USA Today article in which she wrote, “What if we responded in reverent prayer and quiet introspection instead of patriotic frenzy? That would be truly American exceptionalism.”

Prayer, “quiet introspection” or a ceremony of remembrance might be better alternatives to partying. Of course, it’s natural to feel drawn to revenge and justice in terms of defeating our greatest enemies, and I am not suggesting we suppress those emotions when they rightfully surface because a positive reaction is certainly expected, but rather I am suggesting we learn to temper those emotions to remember that although the perpetrator has paid for their actions, closure is more myth than reality.

Even though the Boston bombers will no longer be able to hurt American citizens, the death and devastation they left in their wake cannot be undone. The dead cannot rise anew, and the injured cannot grow new legs or arms. It seems contradictory to celebrate with such fervor when the pain of those affected is still so fresh, when the sense of loss far outweighs any relief they may feel. In the end, although the immediate nightmare has come to a close, the victims’ personal nightmares will endure much longer.

It’s difficult to put into words what I would rather not see from the American people in these times of intense tragedy, but perhaps it’s more about what I would rather see more of. I want to see the American people come together to remember and honor the affected citizens instead of focus on the ones who made them suffer. I want to see the American people rise above the base reaction of anger-fueled satisfaction at another’s expense, even if they had it coming, and instead return the focus to the many emotional and physical wounds still in need of healing.

When we lose our heads to the satisfaction of banging our chests in American pride and neglect to remember the sadness, even if only for one night of celebrations, it may be a sign that by giving in to the chaos, we are inadvertently allowing our perpetrators to win by letting them stir the frenzied emotions over death they wanted to bring out in us all along.