The following words from David Hartley, whose wife Marie was killed in the 7/7 bombings in London struck home to me, amidst all the celebrations on the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and comments that justice has been served:
They have got one but there are more behind there.
I can't see this meaning terrorism is likely to stop there. They might try retaliating a bit more now.
There is no sense of justice. They have some one but there are plenty of people willing to take his place.
He is just one of them.
Of course, I am not saying that David Hartley speaks for all those who lost loved ones in 7/7 or 9/11. Many of those will feel a sense of justice; and be glad that an evil man who had no conscience about killing innocent civilians is now dead. I guess for all of us there is a feeling of "he got what he deserved".
But evil atrocities, whether they are on a mass scale or perpetrated by one individual on another, make us all feel angry. In my voluntary work, I get to talk to victims of the most appalling abuse - be it sexual abuse, domestic violence, or emotional bullying. I've witnessed the devastation it wreaks on people. Just because it's one person (or maybe two or three in the case of abuse of children within the family) doesn't make the perpetrators any less evil.
I confess I have a hard time dealing with the anger I feel about this. It is hard not to feel burning anger against someone who for instance has inflicted sexual abuse on a child of under five, or the husband who beats his wife up in a drunken rage (not forgetting that sometimes it is the other way round and violent women abuse their husbands as well).
What is one to do with this anger? One popular way (in the case of sex offenders) is to "name and shame" - to expose sex offenders and hurl hatred and vitriol at them; for example on a "name and shame" website I saw one article about a particular offender. The phrase "piece of shit" seemed to figure prominently in this article and was repeated several times. This particular offender died recently; a local newspaper carried the headline: "Pervert dies, aged 72". Does this help? How does it make the world a better place to say "I'm so happy this piece of shit is dead?"
But there is a different way to respond to this kind of atrocity. Reach out to the victims. Very often victims of abuse descend into self-loathing - blaming themselves for their misfortune. To reach out involves trying your best to understand what it is that they are going through & to try and stand alongside them and understand their feelings. I am not so sure that saying to them "what an arsehole!" is the most helpful response. Indeed, telling them it's not their fault when they have got stuck in a mindset where they firmly believe it's their fault isn't going to help. What helps is trying to understand those feelings - maybe even if you feel they are wrong to have those feelings, to walk with them a little, rather than brush them aside. The journey from self-loathing to anger at the perpetrator, to the ultimately healing process of forgiveness is a difficult and long one, and the last of those steps is easily the most difficult to take.
But there is a difference with Bin Laden. A sex abuser/wife abuser is not my personal enemy, but Bin Laden appeared to be an enemy of everyone in the West. In early rhetoric he stated it was only Americans who were his enemy, but then Al-Quaeda atrocities extended to many others in the Western world, and the 9/11 attack killed many Muslims as well. So I guess he was my enemy.
Someone commenting on Krish Kandiah's thoughtful blog post produced one of the most apt Biblical quotations to address this, from the book of Job:
Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy,
Or exulted when evil befell him?
No, I have not allowed my mouth to sin
By asking for his life in a curse.
Job 31:29-30 NASB
I think many of us must have thought of Bin Laden "I wish that f------ b------ was dead!" I'm sure I have; I'm only human. But the celebrations erupting over the world make me feel quite uneasy.