Friday, May 6, 2011

Speak Ill of the Dead

In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, I've found myself shocked by people's reactions and their lack of perspective. I'm a New Yorker born and raised, I was in 4th Grade when the towers went down. Ten years later, I'm walking out of a college improv show and I hear they finally got the guy. I texted my friends and we had a party until the wee hours of the morning with Wings Over and loud music, because amidst finals and the end of the school year we had something that really needed celebrating. They got him. What disturbed me was the condemnation that seemed to be everywhere the next day... dozens of people I liked and even respected were horrified that our nation had come together overnight to celebrate a man's death. I can understand that on a personal level, the belief that human death should never be celebrated. In 999,999,999 cases out of a billion I would even agree them. But what really got to me was the rampant accusations that anybody who does celebrate or take pleasure in the death of Osama bin Laden is a sickeningly disgusting terrible human being, symptomatic of exactly what is wrong with America. He's the greatest mass-murderer in our country's history, responsible for the tragic deaths of literally thousands of innocent people... our friends, our neighbors, our family members, gone for the sake of a mad crusade against democracy and homosexuality. Did everyone I know turn into Batman while I was asleep and nobody told me? Where could people possibly be getting off calling us sickos for taking pleasure in his death?
"Quick, somebody get him to the hospital!"

Perhaps people don't understand the gravity of the situation. Literally thousands of innocent civilians who worked hard every day to make the best lives for themselves and their loved ones, who asked for no war, were brutally murdered and died horrible deaths. People had to jump out of skyscrapers and splatter  themselves on the sidewalk just to avoid burning to death. These weren't statistics... every single individual was a human being, a son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister, and everything they ever were or would be was taken from them and their loved ones. You don't get to do that to people. You lose your right to have people not celebrate your death when you cause that much pain.

The strength of the character Batman makes a powerful moral statement, but he's ultimately undermined by the medium he resides in. Batman doesn't kill, and there's been a huge effort by many creators throughout history to explore, define and justify this decision. There are a lot of strong moral reasons that have been given for this oddly Kantian maxim held by arguably the greatest Utilitarian hero ever created, but it realistically comes down to one thing at the end of the day... Batman can't kill the Joker because he's too good of a character to get rid of. In reality, if there's a mass murderer who's killed thousands of innocent people, and would gladly do so again given the chance, you end that person. Because there is no place for people like that in a world where we are trying to do the most good with what we have available. In comic books, with their lack of real world consequences, Batman is a stoic champion of objective morality in a world of grays. In the real world, he'd be the dog-faced cunt who allowed for the brutal senseless death of your daughter because he couldn't squeeze a little tighter on someone who deserved it.

I'm aware that the death of Osama bin Laden was mostly a symbolic victory at this point, and I'm aware that it probably won't even change anything. But he was undeniably a truly evil man. No shades of grey, just right and wrong. There was a piece of true evil in the world, and now there isn't one where there was before. That's always something to be celebrated.

1 comment:

  1. I've not heard anyone say that people were sick for celebrating Osama's death. And it's sort of messed up that people would do. You're right, this isn't comic books people; it's perfectly understandable and acceptable to celebrate the death of an evil man.

    You know me, I'm not exactly the most bloodthirsty of people, but even I understand that the natural order of things is that evil people need to be brought to justice and sometimes, only death is enough.

    It is symbolic and it isn't nearly enough. But yes, the death of evil is something to be celebrated.