They say "celebrity" deaths happen in threes. This week we've seen three people Americans have known for years pass on. First, came James Brown on Christmas Day. Then President Gerald Ford. And now Saddam Hussein has been executed in Baghdad.
And while folks mourn the loss of President Ford and the Godfather of Soul (shoot, Brown's funeral has been on CNN live all day - knocking off coverage of Hussein's morning execution and the preparations for Ford's state funeral completely off the news cycle), for some reason people are celebrating the execution of Iraq's former dictator.
It's as if Americans have turned into Munchkins - those diminutive simple-minded denizens of Munchkinland that greet Dorothy after she drops in unexpectedly on the Wicked Witch of the East. When they realize that the Witch is really, truly dead - they start to sing and dance. I've always shuddered at that part of the movie. The little Munchkins are supposed to be a peaceful, tender lot - but then they celebrate someone's hideous death. (Note: Don't piss off the Munchkins. They might be small, but they hold a grudge.)
Saddam Hussein was no hero or martyr. He wasn't even a nice guy. He committed several atrocities. But we should not punish him by with the double standard of "Don't kill - or we'll kill you." Otherwise we become a little more like him, don't we? And, I think, a little less like us.
Compassionate, tolerant, respectful citizens would never celebrate killing someone else. Yet, if you look around the web today you'll see tons of blog posts and editorial columns trumpeting this morning's execution as if the horrible dictator's demise will solve all American issues in the Middle East. Capital punishment is not the answer. Violence begets violence.
As with Oz though, Americans are still in luck. We still have another witch we can love to hate. Osama bin Laden remains at large. While as many Americans have died in Iraq has were killed on 9/11, the author of the largest terrorist attack on American soil is free to plan more attacks. Hell, we're not even really looking for him anymore.
Have we become such a nation of sheeple and knee-jerk reactionaries that we cannot see the truth in front of our faces? Have we become simple minded citizens that honestly believe that one death will stop the thousands of death the Iraq war has spawned? Will we constantly follow the Wizard of BushCo's road to nowhere? Apparently, this is the part of the story where we've hit the poppy fields and everyone goes to sleep quietly and easily - dreaming of a fine new day when all of our enemies are vanquished and peace drifts over the land.
Just like Dorothy, we need to wake up from our slumber and yank open the curtains obscuring Bush's dealings. We need to expose BushCo's administration for what it is: a callous, evil cadre with no respect for human life (unless you're a fetus!). Saddam, at best, was a flying monkey - dangerous, dirty and nasty but not a very big threat to the land.
Remember - nothing really changed in Oz after Dorothy dropped in on the Wicked Witch of the East. It wasn't until she pulled back that drape to expose the Wonderful Wizard as a frail human being with faults of his own that Oz's politics underwent a dramatic metamorphosis.