On Revenge and Jubilation
Posted on May 5, 2011
President Barack Obama’s gesture of closure at Ground Zero on Thursday was a formal and serious show of mourning—quite a contrast from the gleeful outbursts and street parties around the country earlier in the week. What are we to make of the latter reaction to news of Osama bin Laden’s demise? —KA
The New York Times:
“It was appropriate to go after Bin Laden, just to try to cut the head off that serpent, but I don’t think it’s decent to celebrate a killing like that,” said George Horwitz, a retired meat cutter and Army veteran in Bynum, N.C.
Others were much more critical. “The worst kind of jingoistic hubris,” a University of Virginia student wrote in the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. In blogs and online forums, some people asked: Doesn’t taking revenge and glorying in it make us look just like the terrorists?
The answer is no, social scientists say: it makes us look like human beings. In an array of research, both inside laboratories and out in the world, psychologists have shown that the appetite for revenge is a sensitive measure of how a society perceives both the seriousness of a crime and any larger threat that its perpetrator may pose.
AP / Jason DeCrow
A large crowd reacts to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death during the early morning hours of last Monday in New York.