I'm the webmaster for a small synagogue and today I was posting some Purim songs onto their site. One song in particular really bothered me. In it, the Jewish people are exulting over Haman's failure to annihilate them, but they're also exulting over Haman's hanging and taunting him on the scaffold. It has lines like "Get up in the tree" and "I hear you almost see your house from there." My first reaction was horror.
It's one thing to rejoice that you are saved, but another to rejoice over anyone's death, even your deadliest enemy's. Civilized people don't behave that way.
But then I thought about my reaction to the US soldiers who raped and murdered a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdered her whole family. Would I rejoice at seeing those men tortured for what they did to Abeer Qassim al-Janabi? Part of me, being brutally honest, says, "Yes. Yes, I would."
I feel sick when I think of what they did. And so angry. And ashamed that they are my countrymen and that they believed (at least at that time) that they were acting in my name and yours. I wish not mere death on them, but the level of pain and anguish that they inflicted.
And then another part of me reminds myself that any death, even of someone as vile as they, or as vile as the 9/11 hijackers for that matter, is still a cause for sorrow, not rejoicing. Reveling in someone's death is taking the first steps into the kind of thinking that creates monsters like them. At a bare minimum, one can be sorrowful that the evil person traveled the road they did, and wish that they'd led a better, more worthwhile life.
I don't know where that leaves me. Would I jeer at the impending deaths of former Pfc. Steven D. Green, former Sgt. Paul Cortez, Spc. James Barker, and Pfc. Jesse Spielman? I hope not. But I can see where it would be sorely tempting.