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Killing the Bully - Saddam Hussein Executed

What Message Does the Execution of Saddam Hussein Send to Western Teens?

By Tina Kells

Saddam Hussein, dictator. Saddam Hussein, mass murderer. Saddam Hussein, the face of terror. Saddam Hussein, fallen world leader. Saddam Hussein, political martyr. Saddam Hussein, Muslim. Saddam Hussein, man. No matter how you saw him, regardless of the role you think he played in world politics, now Saddam Hussein is dead. What his death will mean for the war on terror and to the state of the world as a whole has yet to be seen but one thing is certain; the Butcher of Baghdad is dead. And the free world should rejoice. But should we? Should we, as a collective or as individuals, ever celebrate death? Morally speaking are there really exceptions to the “thou shalt not kill” rule, and if there are what are they?

The mainstream position of the Western world is that Saddam Hussein was evil personified. A key supporter of the 9/11 attacks, a ruthless dictator who slaughtered his own people like chattel, a genocidal killer and war criminal… if the devil didn’t already have a face Western leaders would surely have given him the face of Saddam. In grandiose poetic terms Saddam is to the West what Satan is to God. He has done so much harm and very little good. The world is a better, safer much more productive place without him. So hang him high and don’t look back, the path to a just society is that much clearer now. Rejoice in the death of evil. Celebrate state sanctioned murder. Remember all the terrible things he did, all the people he harmed or wronged, and all the injustice he is responsible for, and simply be glad he is gone. This is the bottom line message that the Western nations want to sell their people - killing is wrong unless it is the only right thing to do.

Years ago while still in high school I learned two not so little words that I have loved ever since. I love these words because of the simplicity of their pairing and the irony they often show in one another. The words are microcosm and macrocosm and as an undergraduate student in psychology I used them often when writing papers on human behavior. Psychology is big on cause and effect, on the influence of environment on development and behavior. Psychologists talk about the home environment, the school environment, the peer environment, even the pre-natal environment when trying to understand the development of human behavior, be it normal or afflicted. Behaviors are dubbed environmental indicators, they are affected outcomes shaped in large part by social conditioning. The nature verses nurture question is not really a question at all but rather a statement seeking balance. To be solved; how much of behavior is brought on by environment, i.e. nurture, and how much is the product of genetics, i.e. nature. The widely held position is that it is some combination of both and that at key times in development, called times of high influence, environment can trigger innate behaviors that may otherwise have remained dormant for a life time.

The Encarta Dictionary defines macrocosm as “a complex structure such as the world considered as a single entity that contains numerous similar smaller-scaled structures.” When Iraq executed Saddam Hussein it was a macrocosmic killing of the bully. When that killing of the bully is celebrated by a nation it has a microcosmic effect on the citizens of that nation and those citizens most affected will be the ones in a state of high influence. Teens are naturally in a state of high influence. In psychological terms the world environment has experienced an event that creates a social dilemma and causes the reinforcement of a behavioral rule, that rule being that when somebody is really bad, really cruel, really harmful, and really mean it is not only OK to overlook the “thou shalt not kill” rule, it is just to do so. There will be a trickle-down effect. When a collective, like a nation, celebrates a killing like that of Saddam Hussein it sends a clear message to the developing minds of its youth that there are times when murder is not only justified but imperative. Retribution becomes righteous, revenge becomes sanctified and the foundation is laid for those beliefs to be transferred to the smaller scale of day to day life.

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