Tuesday, May 3, 2011

John Stewart and Osama

John Stewart made a good point on The Daily Show last night:
"The face of the Arab world in America's eyes for too long has been Bin Laden. And now it is not. Now, the face is only the young people in Egypt and Tunisia and all the Middle Eastern countries around the world [sic] where freedom rises up."
Very true. But as Stewart also said last night:
"I am too close to this whole episode to be rational about this in any way shape or form. Last night was a good night".
Whenever you find yourself celebrating death by willfully disregarding higher rationality, you're on dangerous ground. Bin Laden was a monstrous worst-case scenario, seemingly as "deserving" of this fate as anyone on Earth, but there's a slippery slope. There are a great many others you or I might be relieved to see shot. And if we're going to ignore our rationality and morality, the feeling of jubilant release could, I would imagine, get pretty addictive pretty quickly.

How many people "deserve" it, if you really want to make a list? Kim Jong-il and Robert Mugabe? How about their aids and supporters who've done most of the actual dirty work? Their torturers? The engineers who knowingly designed the torture equipment? Child murderers? Tutsi? Hutu? Goldman Sachs' management? Scott Walker? Bernie Madoff? Your landlord? The judicial system, ideally, makes the call re: the actual death-worthiness. But where do you draw the line on whose death deserves unbridled celebration?

I recognize that there exists deep inside my psyche a part that could bypass my rationality and my moral compass to celebrate the murder of just about anyone who's ever stood in my way. It's the same part that celebrates a sports victory or the slaughter of video game bad guys. I keep that part firmly under wraps. The first step of unwrapping would be any sentence starting "Look, I may not be rational about this, but...."

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