The Dark Side of Vengeance

Mixed emotions are to be expected after an event like the killing of Osama bin Laden. For most of us it seems strange to feel any sense of joy over the death of another human being, but of course bin Laden was no ordinary person. National pride, revenge, and certainly a sense of justice - such responses, if we experienced them, were to some degree natural and understandable.

Most of this, of course, is not very pretty. The sober reality is that a madman has been brought to justice, but only after a decade of turmoil, wars, and untold human suffering. The first decade of this century should have ushered in an era of peace, hope, and progress but, because of Osama bin Laden, will instead be remembered as a time of conflict, fear, and disunity. Worse yet, even with his death we know that the "War on Terror" will most likely be unending, a phenomenon that we will probably live with for the rest of our lives.

Thus, for most of us any surge of exhilaration upon learning of bin Laden's death was eventually replaced by a more somber emotion, a realization that his violent demise was probably a necessary step on the road to closure, but hardly an event worthy of wild celebration.

That is, unless you're Jeff Jacoby.

Jacoby, a conservative columnist for the Boston Globe, was downright gleeful in his comments on the bin Laden news. In fact, his column demonstrates the eerie brutality of his conservative and religious mindset.

"Good people rejoice when evil monsters are cut down," Jacoby tell us, apparently unaware that a sense of fulfilling vengeance, though natural, is hardly itself a reason for celebration. We may be naturally inclined to relish violent retribution, and even justified on a pragmatic level in pursuing it, but that does not make vengeance itself morally admirable, nor does it make any violence a reason for joyous festivity.

Jacoby is a professional moralist, conservative in his religion and quick to claim the righteous high ground in his writing. This makes his exaltation of revenge (which, predictably, he cloaks in the language of "justice") particularly distasteful, for one can see the delight with which he cherishes the bloodletting of the enemy whom he despises. Of course nobody is shedding tears over bin Laden's demise, but Jacoby's hypocritical exaltation of vengeful justice, his celebratory rationalization of violence, is a textbook example of the conservative religious mind in its unguarded form.

Continue Reading (via "Our Humanity, Naturally")

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Comments

We don't know he was flat out executed.
We are amazed that our great-great grandparents attended hangings, bringing along the kids and having a picnic near the gallows. We see old photos of outlaws, shot dead and then propped up in their coffins and put on display for the public. We know that the severed heads of the king's enemies were put on pikes, like decorations, in London, for the enjoyment of passers-by. We believe the Palestinians should have their own state, but still we shudder when we see the women, the mothers, going to the streets and cheering another suicide bombing, shouting, "Yes, yes, I would give my own children, my son, to be a martyr, to be a suicide bomber!!" We are not sorry that Osama bin Laden is dead. Not by a long shot. But exhilaration? Joy? Are those our emotions? This day was coming, eventually. But to cheer in the streets, to want to see the pictures, to demand his bloody corpse... How far have we come from the days when public hangings were good entertainment for the whole family?
Trial seems kind of pointless when the person has freely admitted to organizing mass murder, doesn't it?
You write: "The sober reality is that a madman has been brought to justice." How was he brought to justice? I thought he was executed without trial? What "justice" are you writing about? I would have experienced more "sense of justice" seeing him in an orange suit than I did discovering we, the US, can execute some people just like that.

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