Monday, May 2, 2011

Brody's Scribbles... What To Feel Upon The Murder Of A Murderer?

By D. Gregory Smith (Bozeman, Montana) MAY 2 | Like so many of you, I watched in horrified fascination as the Twin Towers were maimed and finally toppled, killing and injuring thousands of people and terrifying a nation. I also watched our president, almost ten years later, report that the man responsible for that action had been shot and killed in a raid on a compound outside of Islamabad, Pakistan. The President’s demeanor was appropriately somber and yet had hints of the triumphant. So many cliche’s come to mind:
Serves ‘im right.
An eye for an eye….
You reap what you sow.
Justice is done.
Mission accomplished.
He got what he deserved.
Hooray, Hooray it’s the First of May…etc.

I’m conflicted. As I watched the people gathering in front of the White House last night, I understood the relief they exhibited. I realized I didn’t want to understand the celebration.
On the one hand, the man was a terrorist, a murderer and a complete wacko. On the other hand, he was a human being- with all the dignity and flaws imbued thereof, and completely worth saving. Did he love? Did he show any kindness to another person? Probably.
Could he have repented for his actions? Would he?
We’ll never know.
This is not to impugn the sense of justice felt here- this man was directly responsible for the murder of thousands of fellow human beings. But if I rejoice in his death, if I celebrate it, am I giving up on the goodness of humanity I so profoundly believe in? Am I substituting revenge for justice? Is patriotism predicated on the murder of enemies? Is this the easy way out? Have I become the terrorist who has lost sight of the humanity of the people I kill?
Probably unpopular things to ask, but still, these questions haunt me.
Do they haunt anyone else?

2 comments:

Desmond Rutherford said...

Gregory, I understand what you are saying; what you are asking. I asked myself similar questions, and I know there are others who are likewise asking the same questions, and don't really side with the "celebration" of killing another human being.

This doesn't mean that we think the perpetrator of heinous crimes should not be stopped, or punished. What we lament is that human beings do at times commit atrocities which require an act of aggression to limit further violence.

Celebrations of relief are not the same as ones of vengeance which is not attractive to those of us who do not find revenge a valid reaction to crimes against humanity. It is one thing to stop a vicious murderer, or despot, quite another to wilfully and vindictively seek to kill them without due process, even allowing for the differences between theatres of war and the civilian criminal justice system.

The satisfaction that many people feel over the death of someone like Osama Bin Laden, who has caused loss of life of relatives, friends and fellow citizens is not difficult to understand, but I freely admit to being concerned about the sense of patriotic pride exhibited in the "celebrations."

The fact of course is, any death diminishes life, but in the case of Osama Bin Laden, his death can be seen as necessary to try to stop the persecution of reason and peaceful co-existence of people with diverse if not opposing beliefs.

How, we in the 'free' world try to contain our own religious bigoted extremists from persecuting our own people who have differing views to those bigots, is worryingly inviting of similar reactions to the Bin Ladens of the world.

The real question is, when will we learn to accept each other's right to live without imposing our beliefs on each other?

dgsma said...

Excellent question...
And to follow it up- I think the testimony of our country's greatness will come from other nations chanting "USA! USA!", not when it's mostly us...