When I returned to campus from the wonderful Sweetlife music festival, I was greeted by the chants of my fellow friends who had begun celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death. As a student from Turkey, a country with a history of terrorism, I am particularly sensitive to any act of terrorism. I also vividly remember September 11, 2001; as a 10-year-old, the image of the falling towers on every channel made it difficult for me to even enter tall buildings in the months following.
It was only after arriving at Washington, D.C., that I fully grasped the significance of 9/11, especially for my American peers. This tragically memorable moment had influenced the way they started viewing the Middle East and the world at large. The Middle East now meant one world with the Muslim population all categorized under one Islam. Leaving the ethnic, religious and regional debates aside, I am amazed and shocked by the continuation of the pattern of collective reaction: Bin Laden’s death sparked the long-forgotten pride in being American.
A lot of Georgetown students prefer getting Grab ‘n‘ Go in order to stay in their cubicles on Sunday evenings, yet a great number of my peers had already arrived at the White House as of May 2, 12:52 a.m. Even though the moment was “historical” as my roommate put it, I chose to stay in my room to try my best to understand how and why so many students reacted immediately and without really considering the implications of this breaking news.
I understand and support those who feel proud of the United States’ success in fighting terrorism that is apparently reflected through Bin Laden’s death, and I respect all who lost their lives on the way to this goal. However, I am very much disappointed at my peers’ immediate extreme reaction, which appears to assume the death of one target cleans up the mess called terrorism.
What was it exactly that drove Georgetown students to leave campus and head down to the White House in the middle of the night? Was it simply national pride, or the relief from the mere existence of a horrifying figure? Has Washington D.C., London or Paris become safer after Bin Laden’s death?
Without questioning how or why Bin Laden was found, why do educated future leaders celebrate the death of a terrorist instead of wondering whether or not justice was served? President Obama’s speech on the emotional atmosphere during and after September 11 did not give much detail regarding the killing of Bin Laden, yet has already managed to rally a great deal of support from students. When have we started accepting vague discourse and stopped demanding for concrete explanations?
Monday night, I noticed I mistakenly had a higher expectation of fellow Georgetown students and the American youth: I expected a reaction only after having considered and evaluated the surrounding details of a sensitive situation, such as that night. I am disappointed that there were students chanting “Hoya Saxa” in front of the White House and that the celebrations have remained at the level of the reaction of the masses. Having spoken with several friends from Cornell to Berklee College of Music, I am further disturbed by the pattern of drunken celebrations; these kinds of reactions are disrespectful to those who served for the fight against terror. Pausing for a moment and thinking about the situation instead of throwing beer parties would have been much more of a true showing of honor.
No doubt there will be many that will criticize this perspective for seemingly failing to understand the United States or seeing only the negatives in the face of good news as some of my international friends have already commented. But I hope that as we move forward in the fight against terror, fellow Georgetown students would be able to take a step back and realize that no matter how evil leaders are, their deaths alone will not eliminate terrorism. In the wake of huge international news, I hope students can learn to think before they chant.
Ceyda Erten is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.