The Debate On Wishing for Death
Today, I’m posing a moral and philosophical question. Hopefully, the ensuing discussion will be both interesting and informative.*
When is it okay to wish for the death of someone?
Most readers understand the timely relevance of this topic. It’s been a dominant theme on social media for several days. I need not explain why.
Allow me to frame the discussion and debate in the broadest possible terms.
First, “wishing for death” is not a crime. Thoughts break no laws. Our private thoughts are not objectionable actions. One might even say all thoughts are involuntary. We can’t control them.
Second, expressing our thoughts honestly to others, including “wishing for death,” is also not a crime. Such thoughts break no laws. These thoughts might be considered crude or offensive to some people, but if being crude and offensive was a crime on social media, then most of us would be in prison (probably, for life!).
As a practical application, there are significant differences between the following identical thoughts based on actions and supplementals:
A. (private thought only — kept to oneself) “I hope he dies.”
B. (posted on social media) “I hope he dies.”
C. (posted on social media) “I hope he dies — let’s try to kill him.”
For most, “A “is totally benign. “B” is debatable. “C” is perhaps a violation, and could be criminal. Or, is it? Let’s dig deeper.
What about “wishing for death” as it applies to specific situations, namely conflicts?
— hoping the soldier of an opposing army dies [for those engaged in warfare, the objective is to kill as many people on the other side as possible, even though many of those opposing soldiers are undoubtedly good people]….i.e., “we should kill all the enemy soldiers.”
— hoping a civilian in an opposing nation at war with our own dies [if you work in an armaments factory, you’re hoping for the deaths of innocents — that when bombs are dropped, they will detonate and do their intended destruction]….i.e., “we should drop bombs on the enemy and wipe them off the map.”
— hoping a convicted murderer is put to death [there is a gut satisfaction within most of us when we learn a terrible criminal has been executed]…..i.e. “he was a serial killer, so he deserves to die.”
Let’s agree that each of these examples (above) are clear cases where the overwhelming majority of any population would likely “wish for death.” In the case of the third example, many respondents would also add they want the serial killer to suffer, which is an interesting take on morality.
What about the targets of our ire? This should also be fascinating. With apologies to Goodwin, let’s use some real examples which will be commonly understood by readers:
Your task is to draw the line on this “death chart.” That means, wherever you draw your line, everyone beneath it would die. For the sake of argument, we are pretending they are all alive and actively engaged in despicable acts. Who do you hope dies?
JEFFREY EPSTEIN (sexual predator, but didn’t kill anyone)
CHARLES MANSON (orchestrated murder, but didn’t kill anyone)
JEFFREY DAHMER (murdered 17 people)
MAO, STALIN, POL POT, HITLER (responsible for millions of deaths)
Many readers may draw the line above EPSTEIN. So, is it okay to wish for their deaths?
Finally, what about the orchestrators and architects of evil acts? Ah, yes. You knew this was coming.
Is it okay to wish for the death of the KKK? What about the head of the NRA? What about the false prophets of deranged religious cults? What about the CEOs of tobacco companies? What about those who are responsible for destroying the environment, covering it up, and lying about it?
Now, where do we draw lines?