When I was about eight, my father said at the dinner table he'd had a drink with a friend after work to celebrate the death of Stalin. He said, "It's a terrible thing to celebrate a man's death."
I don't think there was any more table conversation about Stalin. But the comment stayed in my mind, and it surfaces on days like today when the media report crowds at the White House in the middle of the night, cheering and singing "God Bless America," jubilant at the death of Osama bin Laden.
"What will become of Al Qaida?" is an important question, as was "What will become of the Soviet Union?" But the sense that their leaders were our personal enemies is troubling.
This is tricky territory, choosing words to mark the death of a man who set himself at war with us. He saw it as a just war, and he was an effective fighter.
Sitting here, trying to write, I'm hearing local reports of our politicians' victory statements, questions about what Pakistani leaders might have known, and a summary of bin Laden's planned attacks. He was out to get us and I suppose it is a relief to know his mind is no longer plotting war.
But the new democracy movements across the Middle East have already left Al Qaida behind. The rallies of Egyptian youth make it clearer than Al Qaida bombings ever could that the United States, like the ruling class, has chosen arms deals and stability at any price in lieu of food for the hungry and education for the hungry mind.
Osama's death -- and the deaths of those around him, including a woman who may have been used as a human shield -- is a moment for sorrowful reflection, not jubilation.