Ding dong, the tryant's dead (National Post, January 02,2007)
Funny things, these executions of murderous tyrants. They really separate the liberal elites from the ordinary people like nothing else I know. Take Saddam Hussein's execution the other day. When I, an ordinary person, heard Saddam had been executed, I did a little on-the-spot jig and started humming Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.
But most po-faced Western public figures (while doing a jig in their hearts) were jostling each other in the race to be first in line to condemn capital punishment. Of course they were glad the odious Saddam Hussein was no longer amongst us, but that didn't mean they could possibly condone the only means possible to facilitate that desirable outcome.
Official statements by Western countries were Kofi Annan-esque in their hypocritical smarminess. An advisory of the French Foreign Ministry noted that "[France] calls, like all of its European partners, for the universal abolition of the death penalty." U.K. foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said: "We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime" (my emphasis).
Now, ordinary people resent that categorical refusal to categorize: They see a meaningful difference between, say, the biker gang thug who knows he's a social outlaw when he bumps off a few turf rivals, and a tyrant who satisfies his ghoulish hunger for blood by ordering up daily murders of his own people like a side of fries at McDonald's. I guess that makes us ordinaries a good example of -- what's that French word again? -- oh yes, simplisme.
Canada issued a dignified, neutral statement: "Canada joins other nations in supporting the desire of Iraq's leaders and citizens for a peaceful and prosperous future." But bless George W. Bush for unhesitatingly going the extra mile and speaking the whole truth. He was, of course, the only Western leader to use the dreaded "J" word: "Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice ? is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy."
In the days when our culture was confident of its collective identity and values, we shared a consensus that it was society's obligation -- distasteful as it might be in the event -- to uphold the principle of justice. Except for the U.S. -- where this religion-derived spirit still thrives with stubborn strength -- the West's benchmark for the proper moral response to threats to the social order has become subjective feeling, which recoils from action, rather than allegiance to principles, which demands it.
Instead of asking what might be an appropriate, objective public gesture to address the outrageousness of the crimes themselves, we are taught to ask instead: Could I personally hang Saddam? Oh no, I would feel "cruel and barbaric," the most commonly applied trope to the death penalty. Nobody wants personally to seem cruel. But then we have to justify our failure to mete out justice by giving paralysis of will a moral gloss. So we cheat and take a shortcut. We simply agree that while bad people like the Taliban and Saddam shouldn't do what they do, all killing by the state is equally wrong and equally immoral, and that retribution in kind is always "sinking to their level." This makes no sense, of course: If all killing by the state were immoral, no wars would be "just" and our soldiers would be criminals unless they waited to be shot at before killing declared enemies.Sensitivity and compassion rather than dutifulness and stoicism are now the great virtues, and so the measures they cause us to shrink from are judged immoral. It's no longer about how bad the evildoer is, it's about how good we are. This shift in focus from the evildoer's deeds to the compassion of his "judges" serves the additional purpose, much desired by liberals, of making today's Westerners feel superior to our (self-righteous, God-fearing, colonialist, racist, sexist) forebears.
Unfortunately the feelings-based adoption of mercy alone as a default response to evil by our legislators and public intellectuals makes a travesty of the idea of justice. Not at all the healthy sign it is spun as, rather it's a symptom of our elites' loss of confidence and our culture's loss of self-respect.
As for most Americans and a good many ordinary Canadians, who are still "simplistic" enough to recognize justice when they see it, they do not grieve that Saddam's "gone where the goblins go, beLOW, below below beLOW below below be-LOW below below ? "
Bkay@videotron.ca© National Post 2007