The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.


May 1, 2011 will forever be known as the day the Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden. It will also forever be known as one of the most complicated days in my brain.

For the first 15 minutes of awkward CNN anchors stumbling over NOT saying what President Obama was going to tell us, I was afraid that we were going to war somewhere new. I knew nowhere had been attacked, because CNN and MSNBC would have known about that. So then it switched to awkward guessing about Libya, and then hilarious references to aliens...though, admittedly, most of the alien chatter was on Twitter.

Then, suddenly, someone at the New York Times tweeted that Osama bin Laden had been confirmed dead at the hands of US operatives earlier today.

Twitter went batshit insane. People were making jokes about "Mission Accomplished", bashing W, congratulating Obama, etc. And I'll admit, I participated in all three. This was quite a day for this country.

For about 30 minutes, it was all jokes. There are some clever people in this world. I was having trouble knowing what to feel. Was this a big deal? Like, in the grand scheme of things, worth calling my mother and talking about? I couldn't tell. Does it change a lot that he's dead? Won't his operatives just keep on keepin' on? I was still unclear.

But then, around the 45-minute mark, Wolf Blitzer panned to a shot of hundreds of people crowding around the White House, singing the National Anthem. I don't know what it means, but I cried, then. I'm not much for outspoken patriotism, because I think it is very quickly nationalism and then often warmongering. I'm aware that's a big leap.

It took an hour from the NYT leak to when the President finally took the screen. In that amount of time, every possible emotion had been expressed about the situation.

And, yeah, my facebook status congratulated the CIA for winning the 2012 election for Barack Obama. On his watch, a major goal of this war can be checked off this list. On his watch, the number one most wanted man in the world is dead.

Two friends of mine called me out directly -- one on Twitter and the other on Facebook -- for treating this event incorrectly. Many others showed their support for my thoughts on the matter. I'm stuck on their criticism, though.

It is never my goal to celebrate the death of someone, no matter how evil. But it's hard to not feel some sense of positive vibes being released back into the universe, now that this man will not be directly responsible for the deaths of any more people.

But what does this mean, for the world? New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, whom I love and respect, just called bin Laden's death a "triumph," which will lead to "new possibilities in Afghanistan." Read his piece, here.

Can we call it a triumph? Does being a seminarian mean I have to ask the question of whether Jesus would call it a triumph? I'm not trying to ask that question. I'm just trying to reconcile whether this is a great day or terrible day.

I want it to be a great day. Really badly I want it to be a great day. I want to be proud to be an American, today. I want to be proud of my fantastically eloquent President who stood up and declared that this would be a step forward in the fight against hatred in this world. And that this has never been a war on Islam -- just like W said it wasn't a war on Islam -- and that peace will prevail.

I know that killing people is wrong. I don't like that we kill people to show people that killing people is wrong. But what do you do when you are standing feet from a man responsible for the deaths of thousands? Do you want him to have even the slightest chance of killing even one more person? If you are that Navy SEAL, do you pull that trigger? Of course you do.

But what do I do? What do I say, here, now? I am not a Navy SEAL. I am not the President of the United States. I will never have to make that decision, but I will have to vote for people who will, and I will have to respond when they do.

I thought I was going to end up knowing how I felt about this. I still can't tell if this is the conflict or the resolution.

Peace be with you.

Think of it like a movie.

"I Gave You All," Mumford & Sons