Michael Moore and others on the far left have taken to moral preening over the killing of Osama bin Laden, finding it unseemly to celebrate the death of a man that killed 3,000 American citizens. (Of course, people would have cheered if Osama had been merely captured and not killed.) Friday's New York Times story by Benedict Carey validated that left-wing trend under the headline "Celebrating a Death: Ugly, Maybe, but Only Human."
Some Americans celebrated the killing of Osama bin Laden loudly, with chanting and frat-party revelry in the streets. Others were appalled -- not by the killing, but by the celebrations.
“It was appropriate to go after Bin Laden, just to try to cut the head off that serpent, but I don’t think it’s decent to celebrate a killing like that,” said George Horwitz, a retired meat cutter and Army veteran in Bynum, N.C.
Others were much more critical. “The worst kind of jingoistic hubris,” a University of Virginia student wrote in the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. In blogs and online forums, some people asked: Doesn’t taking revenge and glorying in it make us look just like the terrorists?
Carey also found America's political temperature dangerously high in a March 28, 2010 story included a photo caption suggested the 1960s domestic terrorists of the Weather Underground and the Tea Party movement were just "Varying Degrees of Rage.'
Carey partially refuted the far-left claims, but the loaded word "revenge" kept popping up in his story. (What's wrong with "justice"?)
The answer is no, social scientists say: it makes us look like human beings. In an array of research, both inside laboratories and out in the world, psychologists have shown that the appetite for revenge is a sensitive measure of how a society perceives both the seriousness of a crime and any larger threat that its perpetrator may pose.
Revenge is most satisfying when there are strong reasons for exacting it, both practical and emotional.
One metaphor fed into the left-wing assumption that Americans were being mindlessly drawn into the streets to cheer a kind of sporting event.
The sight of Bin Laden’s face on television or a smartphone news feed might have been enough to move people from the sidelines into the streets, to cheer for the home team.
Thus the natural urge for revenge -- satisfied so suddenly, releasing a decade of background anxiety, stoked by peers -- feeds on itself. Delight turns to chanting turns to climbing on lamp posts.