Celebrating the Death of an Evil Person

In our society, when someone is on the brink of death it is common for the patient’s loved ones to ask for prayers. We pray for the person to overcome whatever it may be that is ailing them and hope they get back on their feet as soon as possible. If this person should die, it is natural for everyone who has been praying for them become sad. Following the death, a mourning period ensues with the goal of remembering the life of the patient and in a good amount of situations still wishing he or she were alive. But, is this always the case? Are there instances where we wholeheartedly hope that someone dies or celebrate instead of mourn when they do pass away?

I came across a video on Facebook recently, and I got thinking about whether it is morally wrong to celebrate an evil person’s death. This video I saw was from a MLB game featuring the Philadelphia Phillies vs the New York Mets in Philadelphia on May 1, 2001. May 1, 2001 was the day the U.S. successfully executed a mission to kill Osama bin Laden. The video showed the Phillies fans celebrating in the stadium upon learning through their phones and word of mouth about the death of the Bin Laden. At that point, the baseball game took a clear back seat, and the crowd was in a frenzy.

I do not have a clear opinion on whether it is morally “wrong” to celebrate an evil person’s death, but I am able to see both sides of the coin regarding this question. Technically speaking, one human life isn’t worth more than that of another human. However, we as a society are quick to label people as “good” or “bad” and these labels no doubt affect the value we place on people. With Bin Laden though, I think it is fairly safe to claim as a whole most people find him to be a person with evil intentions. As mentioned before, however; his life isn’t worth any less than a “good” person’s life, per se.

Although the majority of people thought similarly, obviously not everyone believed Bin Laden was an evil person. For example, his followers and other extremists certainly didn’t think of Bin Laden in a bad light, and most even saw him as a respected leader. Those who respected him definitely had a different reaction than the Phillies fans the day Bin Laden was killed. These questions can be applied to Adolf Hitler as well, a man who may be regarded as the evilest person in human history. As an American, I was proud to hear about Bin Laden’s death. I believe he was an evil person and that was the only just punishment for him. Ultimately, I think mourning or celebrating a person who is considered evil on the level of Bin Laden comes down to several factors. One of them is how you value a life. If you think that all lives are equal, then perhaps you may think it is wrong to mourn ANYONE’S death. Another factor is obviously your relationship to the person. All Americans were happy about Bin Laden’s death but as mentioned before the rest of Al-Qaeda was probably not. I do not advocate for either side, but I certainly do think this is a viable question that has several variants of both sides of the coin.

To see the atmosphere at the Phillies game, take a look at this video.

2 responses to “Celebrating the Death of an Evil Person

  1. Jared Afrookteh

    First off, I very much enjoyed your post. I agree that there is a cognitive dissonance for many people (including me) in regards to this issue; I think all life should be viewed as equal, but do I view my mother’s life as equal value to that of bin Laden. It leads to a strong moral dilemma for me when it comes to “evaluating” the worth of a life (like in the Trolley problem).
    On the bin Laden issue, it raises even more issues when trying to take into account the death he may have caused. Furthermore, would his death prevent another’s death in the future? It’s very problematic to judge people on the idea of a determined, future crime, but it is hard not to hold the idea that others may live if he were to die. Is it “wrong” to take any of this into consideration when evaluating life and death?
    The idea that the death of an “evil” person as being good is one that is ingrained in children around the world (i.e. the knight slays the dragon; the evil wizard is killed and the world lives happily ever after).
    This idea of an evil person dying as being a “greater good” very much contrasts with the ideal that everyone has the right to life. I struggle through this whenever it comes up, and I honestly don’t know if I’ll find an answer.

  2. What an interesting concept you brought up. I actually saw this documentary a few years ago, and without the perspective this class has brought me I did not think twice about the potential issues with celebrating Bin Laden’s death. The case of celebrating an evil person’s death is especially unique when it directly fuels nationalism and pride. It is one thing to mourn the death of a personal “enemy,” but when you have an entire country to rally and share camaraderie with, it becomes a whole different ball game (literally!) Without thinking of the true meaning of finding joy in the death of another, I was equally as happy as the other Americans in the video. My joy was centered less around the death of Bin Laden’s person and more around the death of his image and what he stood for. Revenge does not feel like the right word, but sentiments along the lines of repayment or retribution pulsed through American veins. I completely agree with you that there is no easy answer to this, for if you cite the lives Bin Laden took as reason for a just execution, where do you draw the line for say, the death penalty? Do you have to kill a certain number of people to have your death celebrated? All are interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing!

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