Obama’s speech last night about the assassination of bin Laden offered, on the whole, much to be appreciated. Certainly, it avoided the excessive martyrology and jingoistic Americanism that has characterized other Presidential speeches. And certainly, it was far better than many of the lamentably vengeful and nationalistic sentiments that it seems to have called forth from so many citizens. But, if I may be so bold, what would Jesus say? What might Obama’s speech have looked like if he’d really had courage and conviction? I can’t really claim to know the right answer to that. But here, at any rate, is what I might have wished for:
My fellow Americans, after ten years and a million lives lost, I can announce to you today the death of Osama bin Laden, the man our country has long pursued as its arch-enemy. It is not my purpose here to rejoice in this death or any death, but rather to recall with sadness all the deaths on that September day and on the bloody trail we have since pursued. For all the harm he has done us, we did not, for our part, wish death on bin Laden; even our enemies deserve our sympathy. Vengeance should not be sweet; the path of vengeance is the road to perdition. Today, our forces closed in on bin Laden with the intention of capturing him and bringing him to due justice*; unfortunately, he was killed in the resulting firefight, as were members of his family around us.
Nonetheless, we will not fail to thank God for bringing to an end the life of this man who was an enemy to both God and man, whose death, perhaps, can help make the world a more peaceful place. Justice is not sweet, but it is better than injustice. Today, we renew our commitment to pursue peace, to pledge to the world that we desire neither power nor vengeance, but freedom and peace. We hope that the death of bin Laden will mark, in many ways, the end of this long and bloody path we have trodden for the past ten years, that his followers will see the vanity and tragedy of wickedness, and may be reconciled to us, and we to them.
I exhort you, my fellow Americans, to renounce hate this day, rather than indulging in it, to thank God for his justice, and pray for his peace. Rather than getting caught up in the triumph of this day, I ask you to express your patriotism in a more practical way, to remember today the plight of your fellow citizens who suffer this day–the tens of thousands whose lives have been shattered by tornadoes this past week, and the tens of thousands whose lives are about to be shattered by floods in the coming weeks–and the tens of millions who suffer each day in loneliness and poverty. Let us seek to show the world by our actions that life is stronger than death, that love is stronger than hate, that light is stronger than darkness.
*Unfortunately, I doubt whether this was true. It should’ve been true, but perhaps was not.