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Celebrating the Death of an Enemy: Yes or No?

Every person is a complex human being. We all have feelings, thoughts, families, friends, childhoods, beliefs, and everything else that every other person experiences. Even if someone is controversial, that does not mean their death should lack respect.

They couldn’t see past their own opinions.

Human life is precious, and each person has value. It is easy to just think of celebrities or political leaders as figureheads to the public and not actual people, but they are. While the general populous may only see one side of them, there is much more to them than what appears in the media.

When a “bad” person dies, it is not their death we should be celebrating. It may be a great thing that they won’t be able to harm anyone any longer, and it may be a good thing that their poor values aren’t affecting anyone anymore; it isn’t the fragility of their lifespan that should be glorified.

In our living, breathing shells, there’s a reality that who we are is not defined by one facet of ourselves. Men and women who have murdered can also be fathers and mothers. There’s so many more layers to us than “good” or “bad.”

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, there was a great outpour from many mourners, as people showed respect for his life. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifelong opponent of his ideology and judicial philosophy, felt his loss deeply as they had also been lifelong friends and enjoyed each other’s company on a personal level.

But there were many people who wrote celebrations of his death and were gleeful at his passing simply because they disagreed with the way he had ruled on cases. They couldn’t see past their own opinions of the man who had died, to recognize the impact of his loss to those closest to him.

Celebrating another’s death says more about the person whooping and jeering than of the person who has just died. It showcases a lack of empathy, kindness, and basic human decency that we should show toward everyone living and dead, friend or imagined foe.

—Tessa Blair

With great celebrity comes great responsibility. That may not be the exact quote, but the sentiment rings especially true whenever a well-known public persona passes away.Part of the price of fame and power is that one’s decisions carry more weight than the average person’s. Each and every action, as a person with notoriety, is scrutinized more than the average individual’s— and usually rightfully so.

To me, he was larger than a man.

When a person is elevated to a state where their actions have the capacity to impact the populace in real and meaningful ways, their decisions in life are worthy of more moral valuation than yours or mine.

When Justice Antonin Scalia passed, I found myself in an odd place. This larger-than-life figure, this lion of the Supreme Court of the United States, had died. He had been responsible for issuing decisions that limited my rights as a black, Latino, queer person. Rights that other, less marginalized folks take for granted. Scalia and his decisions had an outsized impact on my life and ability to live it as I chose.

By that same token, the man had died.

But, to me, he was larger than a man. He was the face of an unfeeling, uncaring, backwards, and culturally destructive wing of the court that thought it was better for me to be treated lesser in the law than to consider for a moment that individuals like myself may actually be worth something.

So, yes, when Scalia died, I looked on the news with a smile.

I smiled because the man who had committed his time on the bench to making sure that America was not for me, could no longer continue in that way. Even outside of Scalia, there are individuals in this world who have more power than most. If they use that power for bad, or to make the world a worse place for everyone else in it, they must accept the consequences of those actions.

If one makes the world a worse place while alive, don’t be surprised if some get satisfaction when they leave this earth.

—Jordan Anthony

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