Recently I was asked to appear on television to talk about how parents might discuss the recent killing of Osama bin Laden—and the accompanying public celebration and joy—with their kids. The idea was to look at how to explain all the outward displays of happiness associated with killing to our children.
This posed a very difficult question for me because, as a proud adult American who lived through the horror of witnessing 9/11/01, and who still wells up at the thought of it on a regular basis, I felt good about the elimination of a key enemy and murderer of thousands.
After all, my immigrant parents came to this country because it is the best country in the world and because of the things it stands for, and now I myself love this country just as they did, and for the same reasons they did.
But, on the other hand, and again, as an American, I was also raised in a country where the taking of human life was never really—in itself— a cause for celebration, but rather more of a consequence of something like war, as in this case.
In fact, I thought to myself, what makes our country such a beacon of light and hope in the history of the world are the strong, unequivocal notions that our Founding Fathers had of the value and equality of human life under God, of freedom, and of human dignity.
So it struck me that, in explaining this thing to my kids, I would emphasize and glorify not the killing itself as much as the defending of the principles and values upon which our country was founded and which we want to be sure to foster and to preserve in future generations.
I strongly believe that, in order for our beloved America to remain a leader in the world, we must also remain a moral leader.
We must not lose the moral component that has always made this country so special and which the Founding Fathers deliberately and with forethought incorporated into its design and execution at no small personal risk to themselves and their families at the time.
These are the lessons which this occasion can and should prompt each of us to underscore and to renew among ourselves and with our children.
I think that this should also be a somber time of reflection and prayer for our nation. A time to reflect upon what we lost on 9/11 both in terms of human life as well as the relative innocence and security we enjoyed and took for granted up to that time as a people.
What happened to us on 9/11/01 had, and still has, the risk of changing us as a nation in ways that could threaten the very things which make us who we are: Namely, our innate repulsion at the taking of human life that comes with war, and our resignation to do it when necessary rather than our celebration of it— in and of itself.
Let’s move forward now and continue to teach our children the hope that, in this country—and one day hopefully around the world—people will no longer deem it necessary to express themselves implicitly by hurting, oppressing, or killing one another.
That, instead, we can look forward to a day when hate no longer threatens to beget hate even in the greatest nation in the world; that a true concern for and love of our fellow man will continue to emanate forth from us both as one Nation, and as separate nations, under God.
This is what I will be teaching my kids today.
All the best to you and yours, and,
God Bless America,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.