Tuesday, May 3, 2011

9 1/2 Years

Just like I'll always remember where I was when I heard the news on 9/11, I'll always remember where I was when I heard the news on 5/1.

I actually didn't hear the news until the next morning. We don't get TV in our little studio apartment at the I-House, and we mostly spent a lazy, relaxing Sunday at home. (Other BYU communications students got the news Sunday night and headed down to Ground Zero to join in the jubilation.) Erin was checking email/Facebook and found out. She read an entire article out loud while I was getting dressed and getting ready to start another week at The Brooklyn Paper.

It was amazing to me that it had actually happened. It seemed like the hunt for Osama bin Laden would never be over, and that eventually he would just weaken and die on his own. So the fact that he was killed by Navy SEALs actually surprised me.

I didn't become ecstatic that he was dead. But when Erin got to the part in the article about the 9/11 victims' families, and this end (there's probably more than one) to their grieving, that's when the tears welled up. That's when I felt that, finally, the United States had something more to offer them than a short-lived heightening of mutual respect among neighbors (already back to normal), no more liquid containers larger than three ounces on carry-on, and a steeper decline of the airline industry (which has affected my family directly). The United States finally accomplished the pinnacle of its goals in the War on Terror and showed it can get the job done.

As far as my reaction to the basic fact that a man was killed, I think I feel some satisfaction in that too. It's a strange emotion, definitely, to be glad that any human being is wiped off the face of the earth. I certainly can't judge who should live and who should die; that's God's job. But I am reminded of a point of LDS doctrine (a doctrine that I fully believe in):

"Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief."

When the Spirit instructs Nephi to kill Laban, Nephi has a real problem. He has not even an ounce of bloodthirstiness, and no desire to kill Laban even for the essential records he was on a mission to obtain. But, with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Nephi reasoned that according to the Lord's will, Laban needed to die and Nephi needed to kill him.

Now, I don't know if bin Laden's remaining on the earth would have resulted in the United States' "dwindling in unbelief." I know the doctrine that bin Laden professed was absolutely false in so many ways, and was leading some people astray. But as for me and other Americans, I think what we can take solace in is that there is that much less evil in our world now. bin Laden doesn't have to condemn himself any further, and the terror network he left behind is now much less of a threat to our society.

Of course, evil, terror and even al Qaeda will still exist. As long as there is agency, evil will never go away.

But the absence of bin Laden's backwards mentality that is undoubtedly contrary to God's eternal plan is a triumph. Geopolitically, a triumph for the United States. But eternally, a triumph for us too.


A few other thoughts:

I thought it would be really cool to come to work yesterday and be assigned to find and interview a few families of 9/11 victims who live here in Brooklyn. I wasn't sure if it would happen, or if an intern would get that assignment, but I had my fingers crossed.

Alas, I didn't get anything of the kind. And as far as I know, the only Osama-related story done by The Brooklyn Paper was this one:

Osama is dead - and so is her silent protest

It's definitely interesting, but not like I had in mind.


Another criticism I saw and heard yesterday was against Fox News, and I'm actually going to come to their defense for once. A few tweeters thought they found a chance to ridicule Fox News because in their coverage yesterday, the spelled his name "Usama bin Laden." What I guess they forgot or never knew is that when it comes to Arabic names, there are actually multiple spellings.

A quick Wikipedia search brings this up:

"There is no universally accepted standard for transliterating Arabic words and Arabic names into English;[10] bin Laden's name was most frequently rendered "Osama bin Laden." The FBI and CIA, as well as other US Governmental agencies, have used either "Usama bin Laden" or "Usama bin Ladin", both of which may be abbreviated as "UBL". Less common renderings include "Ussamah Bin Ladin" and "Oussama Ben Laden" in the French-language media. Other spellings include "Binladen" or, as used by his family in the West, "Binladin". The spellings with "o" and "e" come from a Persian-influenced pronunciation also used in Afghanistan, where bin Laden spent many years."

I saw somewhere else on Twitter that Fox News has been using the "Usama" spelling long before yesterday. So they were just being consistent.

That said, Fox News did make at least one egregious (but brief) mistake.


In addition, I've seen some complaints that President Obama is taking too much credit for bin Laden's death. Some people think Obama is using too many words like "I" and "me."

I didn't see his Sunday night speech, but I did read the transcript. And I didn't get that impression at all. I think he does deserve some credit for making the right decisions that led to taking out bin Laden. He maybe didn't do anything more amazing than another president - even President Bush - would have done. But even though another person might have done the same, I don't think any person would have done the same. The president made some good and wise decisions. He does deserve some credit for this, and I don't think he's trying to give himself too much.


Jordan Carroll, a fellow BYU communications student in New York, wrote a story for The Daily Universe based on her trip to Ground Zero and being here in New York when the news came.

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