Does Revenge Halt The Hatred?

Does revenge halt the hatred?

By Lisa Earle McLeod

Ding-dong, the witch is dead. Let the joyous news be spread.

There’s something vindictively satisfying about seeing an evil one finally get what they deserve.

But these days, it’s not Munchkins celebrating the death of a wicked woman with green skin and a pointy hat. It’s the hanging death of Saddam Hussein that has crowds cheering in the streets.

Call me crazy, but as I watched the footage of the angry mobs raising their fists in defiance over the death of their former dictator, I felt scared. And when I saw the clip of the black hooded men putting the rope around Saddam’s neck, I almost threw up.

It’s not Saddam’s demise that makes me feel ill. It’s the people involved in his execution for whom my heart breaks.

Does the guy who tightens the noose around the condemned man’s neck go home to a wife and kids at night?

What about the person who walks him up to the gallows? Does he go get a beer at the end of his shift?

And what does the man who drops out the floor, sending the dictator swinging, say to his kid’s class on career day?

In the wake of Saddam’s highly public execution, I find myself asking, which man is really condemned?

The murderer who dies a quick death?

Or the one who kills him and has to live with it for the rest of his life?

As the gruesome footage of Saddam’s execution spreads across the Net and the news, I’m finding myself rethinking the true implications of the death penalty.

It’s not Saddam’s soul I’m worried about, it’s ours.

Many believe that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. Others, including many victims’ families, think that death is exactly what murderers deserve.

Yet you almost never hear anyone talk about the implications for the people who carry out the sentence.

I inadvertently caught a glimpse of the black-hooded men preparing Saddam for execution while pedaling on the health club StairMaster and it literally stopped me in my tracks.

My first thought was, why are they showing us this?

But then I thought, how did we create a world where this is OK?

It doesn’t matter what kind of monster Saddam was, watching fellow human beings wrap a noose around somebody’s neck is nauseating.

I don’t know if they were forced to do it or if they volunteered for the job with glee. But I can assure you, killing their former leader isn’t really putting those black-hooded men on a path toward inner peace.

And judging from the chanting crowds in the streets, I don’t think the execution is prompting a spontaneous outbreak of spiritual harmony for the rest of their country, either. You don’t have to be a social scientist to see that a vindictive angry mob can just as easily turn that anger somewhere else.

I used to think the death penalty was an effective way to rid the world of evil.

But Saddam’s killing has made me realize that putting someone to death just lowers us all. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an evil dictator or a guy who set fire to his girlfriend, no matter how much someone deserves to die, nobody deserves the job of killing them.

I know there are plenty of people out there, in our country and others, who eagerly volunteer for the position of executioner. But do we really want to create an environment where it’s an available job?

Ridding the universe of violence is a complex problem and I don’t profess to have any easy answers. But for now I’m going to pray. I’m going to pray for the people Saddam killed and I’m also going to pray for the people who killed him.

Because as every victim’s family knows, taking a life affects more than just the person who dies.

It’s all of our souls who serve the sentence.

© Copyright 2007, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You’ve Already Got and the YOU You Already Are.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at

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