Gallows Humor

It always starts with a similar refrain: “I know this is sick and insensitive, but…”  I know now to take that as my warning, since I usually can’t stomach the punchlines of that kind of “joke.” And so it is that today’s Internet chatter and headlines are making me feel a bit ill.

Saddam Hussein was executed last night; and while some of us are seeing this as a somber, reflective moment in history, others are dancing on his grave, laughing and whooping it up. I need the celebratory noise to end so I can think. 

I do understand that this isn’t a black-and-white issue; the man whose lifeless body swung from the gallows last night was a murderous tyrant, guilty of atrocities against countless innocent victims and, by all accounts, an altogether evil man. For his crimes against humanity, people clamored for justice. But given our own government’s gladhanding of Saddam during the time he was committing his atrocities, do we also bear some measure of responsibility for those heinous crimes? And in any case, is capital punishment a means to justice or revenge

When we choose or condone levity as a response to Saddam’s death by hanging, are we also laughing in the face of our own humanity? And if we celebrate the sight of his corpse, twisting in that noose, are we making a mockery of all that’s good within ourselves? 

I certainly can’t speak for anyone else about all this…I’m just asking some serious questions of myself.

19 Comments

  1. I know what you mean. I think the familes of his victims are the only ones who know if this is justice or revenge.
    I do think that life in prison would not necessarily be a means to silent his evil. But capital punishment, death by hanging, is hard to wrap my brain around.

  2. I feel a little sick about it, too. When i saw the news last night, it felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I know they did two trials, but it was such a quick response. And i am not really comfortable with the idea of the death penalty anyway. I don’t feel like any of us are perfect enough to decide when another’s life should end.

  3. I feel a little sick about it, too. When i saw the news last night, it felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I know they did two trials, but it was such a quick response. And i am not really comfortable with the idea of the death penalty anyway. I don’t feel like any of us are perfect enough to decide when another’s life should end.

    • I worry that by killing Sadaam, we’ve only made him into a martyr. I feel for the victims and their families but think this was done too fast. My husband said it was the Iraqian people who executed Sadaam. Still, I agree with you Melodye.

    • I worry that by killing Sadaam, we’ve only made him into a martyr. I feel for the victims and their families but think this was done too fast. My husband said it was the Iraqian people who executed Sadaam. Still, I agree with you Melodye.

  4. I’m just so depressed today. I don’t bear any love for Saddam Hussein, but executions always make me feel dark, and I can’t escape the feeling that our country has done some pretty horrible things lately, and… I don’t know. I can’t articulate it. I’m just down for a lot of reasons.

  5. I’m not laughing, either. Being pro-life from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death, anything that cuts short a human life falls outside that which I find acceptable. Yes I feel for his victims and their families – but more killing is never justified; the death of one never brings healing healing to another.

  6. I wasn’t enthusiastic about his death so much as I was relieved. It’s an interesting feeling, knowing that someone who has destroyed the lives of so many people in my 18 years is gone.

  7. Thank you for posting this. I’ve always been instinctively against the idea of death as punishment — I’m not pro-life, but I’m pro-respect-for-life. A condemned person is almost never treated with the sense of piety that all humans and all human deaths deserve. And as for the onlookers, well, the respectful death rituals we perform are a great part of what makes us human; after all, isn’t that part of why we’re so horrified by “mass graves?” I find it chilling when people act like executions are ha-ha-ha fun and for the good of all. Btw, whether the corpse was once “evil” doesn’t seem to affect this behavior at all — I’ve seen grisly photos of lynchings in the south, onlookers acting like it was a day at Disneyland. But when you drag a human body around, or dance and joke as it swings from a tree, it’s not right. There has to be a better way. I think we all know that, deep down. But… I am comforted to see posts like yours and the comments below it. These are worthwhile question to ask.

  8. I agree with you. It’s more complex than a simple hanging can take care of – and to have this done quickly and shown on video I fear will just add fuel to the fire of anti-American sentiment. Our country supported him with ammunition and money, we haven’t set a good example of late on how to treat ‘enemies of the state’, and I’m just sickened by it. As a country, I think we need to slow down and be more reflective.

  9. I agree with you. It’s more complex than a simple hanging can take care of – and to have this done quickly and shown on video I fear will just add fuel to the fire of anti-American sentiment. Our country supported him with ammunition and money, we haven’t set a good example of late on how to treat ‘enemies of the state’, and I’m just sickened by it. As a country, I think we need to slow down and be more reflective.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *