Historian: Celebrating someone's death "distasteful," but "I'm not mourning bin Laden's passing"

Historians in the News

Spontaneous celebrations of pride, where people pour into the streets to embrace the flag and each other, have mostly become the stuff of sports victories or Twitter-fomented revolutions in the Middle East.

For American celebrations with any equivalence to what resulted from the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, you have to go back to 1945, to V-E and V-J days....

The comparison is inexact because the comparisons only go so far. Sept. 11 may well have been this generation's Pearl Harbor, but bin Laden killed thousands while Germany and Japan killed millions.

But those who both made and study history recognize the parallels. The sudden, entirely welcome demise of bin Laden is a sort of closure signifying that America remains a defining agent in the game.

"It's fairly distasteful to celebrate death," says Christopher Strain, a professor of history and American studies at the Honors College of Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter. "But I'm not mourning bin Laden's passing, and I certainly understand the celebrations. I think there's a kind of catharsis. People feel relief; perhaps some free-floating anxiety and angst will subside a little bit....

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