Monday, July 25, 2011

The Executioners

Another tragic mass-murder.  This time in Norway, a country that does not put its criminals to death.  Questions arise to as to what this man, clearly culpable, deserves.

But what does it mean for him to “deserve” anything? Should he be made to feel uncomfortable as a sort of payback for the pain he caused? How could he possibly suffer enough?
You could torture him for the rest of his life and it wouldn’t even come close to the sadness he has caused. Could the manner of suffering even be replicated?

Would it make people feel better to see him suffer? How much suffering would be enough? Surely there could never be a knife long enough, or a whip fast enough.

Is there some “debt” to society that he must pay back? What would that transaction be? What could possibly be done with his blood?

Maybe what we seek in vengeance is a vain attempt to erase the past, because we did not *deserve* what he did to us. Maybe we seek to right some cosmic wrong we see in the universe, by hammering our dull and useless limbs against the sky, in vain. Yet, there is nothing we can do, and this final truth is too much to bear.

But, maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe by acknowledging our humble place in this violent world, we can make some sort of peace. Horrific things happen to us, everyday, sometimes just as brutally – plane crashes, car wrecks, volcanoes, hurricanes, tidal waves, etc.

Yet where are the calls for vengeance then? Who is to pay the debt? Only a fool would demand justice. And thus these tragedies are so much more honorable, and less troublesome. Who would blame an earthquake, nothing more than the forces of nature at work?

And so the question is: how is the murderer any less of a force of nature? He is either clearly a man with a troubled life, or a psychopath. In either case, it had nothing to do with his ability to make a rational decision. He was an assembly of factors that resulted in a coordinated force of destruction and evil, a walking tornado, a talking plague.

And yet what may be most disturbing of all, is that unlike most natural disasters, society is at least partially to blame. From reading the man’s manifesto it was clear that he had plenty of help in the formulation and determination of his nightmarish plans. In fact, we’ve heard similar remarks from our elected politicians, pundits, and friends and neighbors.

He is certainly guilty. But so too are we.

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