On Gloating over Tragedy

I follow a fair number of people on Twitter. Writers, readers, artists, and a whole lot of just plain old folks that at one point or another have said something that made me think they might be worth listening to in the future. Many, though certainly not all of them, have similar politics to my own, which is to say that they lean to the left, at least socially and often economically as well. We agree with many of the same people, and consequently tend to disagree strongly with some of the same people too. Far right wing politics, social conservatism and the like get fairly little time on my stream, and that is by design.

But there’s a recent trend among people I like and agree with that I find increasingly nauseating, and that is the celebration of, and gloating over, tragic acts of those we dislike and disagree with.

The two most notable examples of stories that have led to this phenomenon are allegations of domestic abuse against Bill O’Reilly and the admission of child molestation by Josh Duggar.

Now, before I move on, let me be clear. I find both of these men morally and ethically reprehensible. I disliked them before these news stories, and I am disgusted to a different level by them afterward. I want no confusion – I am not defending either one. They are repulsive. But I have always believed that we should hold ourselves and our allies to a higher standard than our enemies, and I’d like us to be better in how we respond to their crimes.

In short: if a crime has victims, don’t gloat about that crime. Don’t score political points by saying that this is typical Republican behavior, or smile at the cancellation of a show you’ve always hated in the aftermath. These crimes aren’t about you. They aren’t about reinforcing your politics or worldview. They are about the victims and the hell they have been put through by their attackers. I see so little comment on the victims, and so much barely restrained glee at an enemy being taken down a notch, that it frankly turns my stomach.

So, that’s it. Don’t gloat about tragedy. Domestic abuse, child molestation – these are not things to ever cause even a modicum of satisfaction in decent people. If you must comment on them at all, make your first comment an expression of sympathy and support for the victims, and then decide whether, after that, your next comment meets the Buddha’s three standards:

“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”

I’m as guilty as anyone of speaking outside of these, and in general, I think they’re far too restrictive. Sometimes we can make jokes, we can blabber on about TV shows we like and the meal we just ate, and these things are never necessary. But when there’s a victim involved, those seem like a good set of rules. I for one will try to adhere to them.

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