Is Murder Ever the Answer?
Wishing harm on other humans may be viewed as hyperbole, but it has an effect on the world around us.
To some, this question might seem silly or dramatic. Perhaps your first reaction was to scoff. What kind of a question even is that?! Most people don’t walk around saying that killing people is the solution to your problems. Online, however, it seems to be a different story.
Every week, one or more posts cross my feeds where violent, hate-filled vitriol is being spewed in comments. Sometimes directed at criminals, other times it’s directed at people who have been rude, or worse, just disagreed with someone.
I’m not sure if it’s a function of folks being able to hide behind a screen, or if they’d still say these things in public, out loud. Pages like Britslist and “Raw” groups give people the perfect place to express their violent thoughts and offhanded comments about the types of torture and death other humans should be subjected to.
Being in the company of people who are expressing a desire for violence makes me uncomfortable.
It bothers me. Quite a lot, actually. Being in the company of people who are expressing a desire for violence makes me uncomfortable. Yes, even if they are behind a computer screen. Even if they are strangers. The undercurrent of hatred and intolerance these types of remarks contain is not lost on me.
People make statements all the time about how other people should be judged, punished, or treated. Sometimes, it’s a bit more abstract: hoping they get what’s coming to them. More often, people talk about how they hope someone gets raped in prison or, in extreme cases, they fantasize about what they’d do to that person should they see them on the street.
I’ve seen it dozens of times, folks who somehow feel comfortable describing how the person deserves to have pain inflicted upon them, to be tortured or murdered. In some cases, they say that someone should not be punished for killing another human being because the other person deserved to die.
When I express my thought that I don’t think it’s helpful or right to spew that kind of vitriol, people say I am too sensitive.
I don’t believe it is EVER my job to say that someone should die. I used to be pro-death penalty, or maybe ambivalent. But I still remember how I felt the day that they executed Timothy McVeigh. I was 21 years old, and when I listened to the news I felt sick. It’s not right to kill another person.
When I express my thought that I don’t think it’s helpful or right to spew that kind of vitriol, people say I am too sensitive. They tell me to leave, to shut my mouth, accuse me of being a snowflake or apologist. But the thing is, I believe words have power. I believe that with the ones we choose to use, we decide what kind of world we’re creating and what type of energy we’re putting out in that world.
Some people argue that it’s hyperbole, they don’t mean the things they say. But there are weight to those words. You’re not yelling into a void. You’re using real words about real people, and wishing pain and violence on them. In what world could that possibly come back on you in a positive way?
Sometimes, words are used in a more passive way to support violence, or excuse it. Recently, one of my Facebook friends shared an article about Connie Serbu, a woman who was convicted of the pre-meditated murder of an 18-year old who was accused of molesting her young daughter.
In her post, she said she wanted “justice” for the woman, and within the comments she made it clear that by “justice,” she meant she didn’t think the woman should be in jail. I disagreed.
While I understand the horror and pain of someone hurting a child, I don’t think it justified killing another human. I understand that this woman was hurting. I understand that she was angry. I am sad that for her, the answer was to throw away the rest of her life and be consumed by her anger and pain rather than to try to heal with her daughter and find happiness.
When we put words out there saying murder is okay, we are contributing to a negative, violent energy that is already too big.
The worst part of the whole story, for me, is that there is a little girl who has been badly damaged. Her autonomy and innocence was stolen from her, and now the person she might have been closest to in the world, who she really needs, has been ripped from her life. She still has her father, but her mother will likely be in jail for a long time.
Despite this, I disagreed with the idea of “justice” people were voicing. Why? Because the way those comments read was multiple people condoning something very violent. This wasn’t a crime of passion, it was a conscious, premeditated choice to lure someone somewhere and end their life. When we put words out there saying murder is okay, we are contributing to a negative, violent energy that is already too big.
Responding to bad behavior, crime, or violence with more violence is not solving anything, and verbal violence is still violence. There’s a difference between agreeing with someone’s actions and believing that they deserve to have terrible things done to them. When we choose to respond to posts, stories, and comments with wishes for harm and words that incite anger, pain, and a mob mentality, all we’re doing is putting more negativity into the world.
Not only that, but none of this is addressing the underlying issues that cause bad things to happen. It’s not helping anybody heal. As Harley Quinn said, “Psychologically speaking, vengeance rarely brings the catharsis we hope for.” Being angry and yelling about bad things can feel good in the moment, but it rarely brings any lasting peace or healing.
Kindness is underrated, and spending our energy on negativity is a real waste of so much potential.
Words matter. How we choose to interact with other human beings, even in the way we talk and think about them, affects the world around us. Thinking and speaking in negatives is demonstrated to have a weakening effect. Compassion, empathy, and support create positive interactions that can strengthen everyone involved.
I believe that we need to be more intentional about how we express ourselves. Kindness is underrated, and spending our energy on negativity is a real waste of so much potential. Violence is not the answer.
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