There's this viral video going around of four middle schoolers piling merciless, profanity-laden verbal abuse on an elderly, harmless, defenseless school bus monitor named Karen Huff-Klein until she cries.
You can view it here, but be warned it will put you in a really bad mood for a really long time*. The little incubuses say things that make the possessed insults in The Exorcist seem like an inspirational pep talk.
If you're like many of the people who leave comments on YouTube and internet news articles, you might be struck by the desire to see the kids suffer pain commensurate with the pain they caused the old woman.
Or maybe more pain, like the woman who commented: "This makes a strong case for forced sterilization," or the like-minded guy who wrote: "donk the ****ers ****s-first in a firey tub of acid and make there parents watch!!!!"
Another current story that has drawn out feelings like these is the sordid Jerry Sandusky case--lots of "Give me a cheese grater, a Lawrence Welk Greatest Hits CD and ten minutes alone with that scumbag..."
Are these appropriate reactions to have? Sure, you could say they're natural. I admit to having them. Hamlet had them, and doesn't everyone think Hamlet is cool?
But do they serve any purpose? Does their existence in us make the world better or worse?
Do you really, seriously, literally want to see that stuff happen to Sandusky and the bus kids, or is it just a way of quantifying your outrage, when in your rational mind you just want to see them punished enough so that they can never do it again?
I'm struggling with this one.
*Mood-booster (and/or mind-blower): Someone started a website this morning where sympathetic souls could donate money to Ms. Huff-Klein, who was--as the bullies mentioned over and over--poor and working the bus monitor job to make ends meet. For her ten minutes of torture, she has received over $325,000 so far and there are still twenty-nine days left to donate.