COLUMN: Proverbs 24:17
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013 00:03
It was during spring break while I was sitting at my dining room table that I first found out the news. Instead of focusing on my copious and abusive amounts of organic chemistry homework that were spread out in front of me, I was perusing my Facebook news feed when I came across a few shocked and exclamatory statuses. A bit skeptical, I went to my trusted news source (the Yahoo! homepage, of course) and saw the breaking news in capital letters.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had died at 58.
I was in a state of slight disbelief. The infamous political leader who called former President Bush the “devil” and President Obama a “clown,” the controversial man who claimed, “Capitalism leads us straight to hell,” was dead. Even now, nearly two weeks after his passing, who knows what the future holds or how American foreign policy will be affected. Chavez’s death is a good thing, right?
When I told my younger sister the news, she was excited to go to school the next day and visit her AP European History teacher, who had vowed he would bring in cupcakes the week the corrupt Venezuelan dictator died. He was joking, of course, but he definitely isn’t alone in his feelings of happiness.
Chavez’s death has been met with not only speculation and lamentation, but also unbridled welcome and celebration. The day of his passing, Venezuelans in south Florida were reported to have been rejoicing by waving Venezuelan flags and singing the national anthem. Even chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce declared, “Good riddance to the dictator.”
Later that day one of my friends posted a Facebook status, claiming death should not be celebrated and we should all hope Chavez rests in peace. Her declaration faintly reminded me of another friend who posted a similar status about death in May 2011.
Who can ever forget the momentous spring of 2011? The royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton took place that year on April 29 and became the fixation of the entire world. The full ceremony was broadcast on the televisions in my high school, and even one of my professors this semester remarked on how many English department faculty members woke up in the early morning that day to tune in to the ‘fairy tale’ wedding.
And who can ever forget what happened about three days later.
A quick YouTube search will yield more than a dozen videos showcasing exactly what transpired that night here on the Boston College campus. The jumping and screeching of the more than ecstatic students, their thunderous applause and unbreakable unity, are honestly quite astonishing to watch—and even a bit disturbing. I still remember that night vividly, too, along with the deluge of Facebook statuses all expressing joy and delight and cheer over the death of a single man.
It was in the ensuing days that my aforementioned friend posted her status, informing people that we should never find happiness in the death of a human and celebrate his or her passing. I agreed with her then, and I wholeheartedly agree with her now. No one’s death, no matter who they were, should be met with any type of pleasure. As one of my good friends on campus stated, don’t such deceased individuals have families that are mourning the loss of one of their own, families that are going to have to live and remember how the passing of their loved one was met with such unrestrained elation?
When celebrations like this tend to occur, I find myself confused at how so many people can join together and blatantly express their glowing emotions. Similarly, my older sister maintains that those who watched and obsessed over the royal wedding in 2011 were deluded and foolish. Why champion the alliance of two filthy rich aristocrats during a ceremony upon which so much money and time were wasted? But despite all its flaws and what my sister thinks, the royal wedding was something more than just a grand parade and fairy tale fantasy—it was a loving union of two individuals that in turn unified more than an entire nation.
William and Kate’s royal wedding and the death of one of the most infamous men in history occurred within days of one another, almost purposely inviting a comparison. The dissimilar events essentially share the same core: whereas the former brought people together in a moment of love and hope, the latter consolidated people in a moment of hate and detestation toward Osama bin Laden.
Chavez and bin Laden were both polarizing leaders with their individual notorious qualities, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were also humans with their own loved ones and families. Both brought vitriol and terror into the world, but that doesn’t mean that we should respond with hate either. It’s better to rejoice and find comfort in something overtly positive and optimistic, and I feel that’s where the royal wedding got it right. Nevertheless, the wedding was totally overshadowed in the days that followed—there’s even a Facebook page entitled “And That’s how the USA outdoes a Royal Wedding.” People were more ecstatic in the death of a single man than in a matrimonial union, and I think that says enough.
Not only are happiness and celebration over death inappropriate, but they also will never be able to help in changing the world. If there is anything we should actually be happy about, let it be the possibility that the world can genuinely progress and develop into a better place—and us along with it.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.