Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Death Penalty For One's Opposition

I recently wrote about the appalling outpouring of joy and celebration over Justice Scalia's death:
I find it fascinating that Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Scalia were the best of pals, yet I'm hearing plenty of random yahoos gloating over his death.

The real venom of this partisan divide is fueled by loudmouths who lack real personal ties to folks with differing views and styles. It's easy to desensitize from afar. That helps make people seem something other than real, breathing people.

That's why it's easy to recognize that Trump doesn't have personal connections with Mexican immigrants, for example. If he did, they'd be real, breathing people for him.

Judging by the reaction of many progressives to this news, there's some Trumpishness in many of us.
It's received a lot of pushback on Facebook - as well as a comment posted here to the Slog. I'll summarize the reaction from those who I naively hoped would see reason and feel shame: 1. Mexicans are innocent, but Scalia is guilty, 2. Scalia's actions hurt people, therefore, uh, Hitler/Nazi/Godwin, and 3. "Don't speak ill of the dead" is a stupid concept.

In other words: point thoroughly missed. So I posted to FB the following more in-depth treatment of a moral issue I'm shocked isn't easily grasped:

If any of you feel that certain people deserve death (real, literal death) because you find their views or actions objectionable, then you should own up to that. Publicly advocate for their assassination, perhaps even pull the trigger yourself. Live the ugliness of your views. Know what you are.

But if you feel objectionable views or actions oughtn't carry a death sentence (i.e. you are a rational, socialized human being rather than a nascent monster), then, by all means, state your disagreement in whatever exaggerated or crude language you'd like, whether they're living or dead. Nothing wrong with that! Lord knows Scalia lavished in the exchange of blunt scorn! But if death's not a proper penalty in your mind, then the death itself wouldn't be celebrated.

It's a question you may want to rethink, rather than bluntly charging ahead via a visceral, tribal sentiment of righteousness, because it's really quite a serious step. Know that others of your tribe have refused to take this step. Obama, who was generous with his praise, refused to. Liberal legal lights such as Lessig and Ginsberg - more fully aware of the weight of Scalia's actions than any of us - have expressed respect and sorrow. And here's what Jim-Obergefells, plaintiff in the big same-sex marriage case that Scalia railed against, had to say:

Delighting in a death means you believe they *deserved* to die. And if they deserve death in hindsight, they deserved it in foresight, as well. So I'd suggest preparing a list of seeming miscreants whose immediate, presumptive extermination you advocate. But know that you or someone you love will more than likely wind up on such a list one day. Because if a critical mass of people cross this line, society's over and we're fucked.

Which side of history would you prefer to say you were on? The side that wished death for their idealogical opposition, or the side that pulled back?

Related reading: my posting about the dancing in the streets over Bin Laden's execution.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that there is a big difference between glee at Scalia's death, which I do not share, and the joy and relief I have that he is no longer on the Supreme Court. If you are not supremely happy that this mean-spirited racist homophobe is no longer affecting the court's decisions, I suggest you read Linda Greenhouse's column in today's (2/19) NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/opinion/resetting-the-post-scalia-supreme-court.html?emc=edit_th_20160218&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=46897011

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