Thursday, January 04, 2007

Saddam and the 10-year-old

A 10-year-old child in Texas hung himself while acting out the execution of Saddam Hussein. I guess I'll take this as my cue to weigh in on this issue.

The day of Saddam's execution, someone made a casual comment about the impending event. I don't recall what the comment was, nor who made it. I just remember thinking how perverse it was to be chatting about a killing as if it were the next episode of a sitcom.

I also heard that there were plans to prosecute the guy who recorded the killing on his mobile phone. As if killings done in our name should be done in private.

I'm sure that if Saddam had harmed anyone I loved, I would have wanted him dead. However, he didn't harm anyone I know, and I feel dirtier and less proud since he was executed in my name. I have to wonder what sort of justice it is that brings collateral damage to me and more so to a 10-year-old boy in Texas. Not any kind of justice I recognize. Revenge would be a better name for it.

The premise of the justice system should be that it promotes better social outcomes, and killing people doesn't actually do that. It's not about whether Saddam deserved to be killed, but whether the result of his execution will be beneficial. It's far from obvious that it will be.

Why don't we draw and quarter criminals anymore? Or burn women at the stake? Are the crimes of today lesser than those of the past?

No. We're just more civilized these days. The cruelty of these executions was once thought necessary to distinguish the trauma of the penalty from the trauma of everyday life. The problem is that these so-called "punishments" simply prolong our barbarity by desensitizing us to violence. It was right to put an end to barbaric practices in the past, and it is right to do so again.


Peg said...

A flag flies at half mast
for who
the flag in red white and blue
was seen flying low
for who
many believed to be ours
many to see theirs
and all in all
we are they
and they are us
and together
we suffer the same
and then we cry justice

Sorry, that sparked this and I do bow my head for all that see life as a mere token in the game machine! I turned 49 today and I guess this year will prove no wiser than the last!

take care doc,
for sadness will lurk before a rainbow will explode spreading its colors throughout the land....

exploded-planet-god said...

I disagree empirically with the densitization to violence.

As a person in my mid 40's, I've seen a TON of gratuitous violence on TV and in the movies.

However, after ALL these years, I never got physiologically upset at violence except for 2 instants (as TWO examples). MSNBC shows public executions in a soccer stadium carried out by the Taliban. I was shaking for hours after witnessing this vs. NEVER getting upset at any dramatized (fictionalized) violence.

The other example was voluntarily watching a beheading of a prison in the mideast. The weight those REAL events carry is far beyond the rest of the fictional violence we are exposed to in life.

Take my challenge and watch those videos for yourself and compare your emotional and physiological reactions.


Doctor Logic said...


I am sooo rude!

I barely had time to skim your post when you wrote it, and now I see that I missed the appropriate time to wish you a happy birthday!


Doctor Logic said...


I think you are agreeing with me on the thrust of my post, but disagreeing on the effect of simulated violence.

I've noticed that people have different reactions to fiction than I do. I think I get enveloped by what I'm watching. It's like I don't have a voice saying "This is a simulation, this is a simulation,..." over and over in my head. It's almost as real as the real thing. I react in a similar way when I hear news stories about injustices.

I've had similar experiences watching fictional murders on TV as you had watching those real events unfold on video. I've had to sit in silence while I try to mentally repair my brain from the trauma.

Maybe people like me cognitively interpret events in the real world as stories, and so fictional stories seem more real to us. What do you think? And if storytelling is one paradigm, what are the alternatives?

Peg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peg said...

OOOh! Then I would say dear doc to your, "And if storytelling is one paradigm, what are the alternatives?" It may be time for a long, long vacation in the Bahamas or perhaps mountain climbing would be a favorite or camping in Yellowstone or just riding in a 69 T-bird or perhaps a midnight fire blazing around cherry wood! All in all doc, the answer is clearer than any words may express!
Thank you so much for the B-Day greeting! And it is true, I don't look a day over 32!! Oh golly, this may be fiction!!? ;-o ;-0}
;-0} :-0}
Ah, love ya doc!
take care and sail on!

2/04/2007 1:54 PM