When a controversial political figure dies, I find it interesting that every college student on Facebook automatically becomes a political science expert, a figure who personally felt the regime's oppression, and a thoughtless drum major for the brainless culture of celebrating the death of anyone -- evil or otherwise. Everyone's got loved ones, and everybody is loved.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday, March 5. Along with his death came the demise of civility among American observers. But it isn't the first time a group of people has collapsed into a sinkhole of uncompassionate ignorance, and it likely won't be the last.
For me, the first battle between an appreciation of humanism and drive for barbarianism occurred upon the president's announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a special operations mission. From a rational perspective which highly values justice, one could easily make the argument that bin Laden got what he deserved. It is not outlandish to claim the world is better off -- as a whole -- without such a figure in power. It is, however, barbaric to hang from fence of the White House and flaunt our American-ness.
The despotic Kim Jong-il was removed from the lives of North Koreans on December 17, 2011. Certainly everyone in America cheered the prospect of a more workable relationship with the secretive country, but many cheered the death of Jong-il. After contesting the idea of promoting such hatred, I was told -- by a devoutly Christian friend, no less -- that, though Mark 12:31 suggests to "love thy neighbor," it simply doesn't apply here. But a human cannot by dehumanized simply by another's perception of him. Regardless of what kind of despotic leader or truly awful human being you are, you are still a human being. And that is not nullified by something so external as an opinion, nor something so internal as a methodology -- no matter how sick and misguided that methodology is.
To look at the world from a unbiased perspective is nearly impossible, but I would propose that an oppressed population would, materialistically, be just as well off once a dictator is removed from power as they'd be if he died. A dismissed political leader, suppressed into hiding has no more material power than a dead political leader. Of course, people are interested in justice. All the while, people would be better off being merciful. After all, it is more miserable to live as an exiled failure than die thinking you were a hero.
Though it's certain that Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong-il, and Hugo Chavez are not similar people, the human condition is a constant. It cannot be defined by one's actions. Everyone occupies a space in someone's heart. And if the death of someone who is a father, a son, a brother, a daughter, a mother can be prevented, it should be prevented. Justice is served not by the Draconian principle of an eye for an eye, but rather by the natural cycle of life and death.
As Charlie Chaplain exclaimed in The Great Dictator, "so long as men die, liberty will never perish." And, more importantly, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said "darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that."