Revenge, Justice and Our Need to have Osama Dead

This morning among the comments one by lexalexander following a Chronicle of Higher Education Review article on our primitive need for revenge, I found the following that captured my feelings about the Osama Bin Laden death better than I have been able to express them to myself:

“The killing of bin Laden has unleased a dog’s breakfast of emotions in me personally and, I suspect, the American psyche in general. Yeah, I wanted revenge. No doubt. But I also wanted justice. The fact that we got both, kind of, in the same instant allows us to feel good about feeling evil, and that’s only the beginning of the emotional and psychological stew we started cooking Sunday night.”

The article, dealing with the biological need for revenge, and the comments of which this is only a part of one, are worth thinking about.

I think I prefer justice to revenge, that is, I have been taught to do that and I have embraced that preference to such a point that I will state it as my true belief.  Yet I also know that I experienced a gut-level satisfaction on hearing that he was dead at our hands that would not have been as great as I would have felt had he been captured.  For what it’s worth, I do not think even our most sophisticated interrogators would have gained any significant information from him.

Intuitively one knows that giving our biological urges free-rein would produce chaos for society yet imposing our ideals of whatever origin, i.e. religious, philosophical or from any other source, creates a tension that characterizes much of our life.  How deeply satisfying to find a moment to “feel good about feeling evil.”

We should spend time thinking about “the emotional and psychological stew we started cooking” when his death, at our hands, was announced.

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