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Can Lust for Revenge Reflect Moral Outrage? Reflecting on a Paternal Homicide.

Posted Mar 03 2011 11:05am

By P. Getty

Tuesday, police officers in LA County fired on and killed a teenage father, Christopher Earl Glass, 17, after kidnapped and brutally stabbing his 5-month-old son and namesake, Christopher Earl Glass Jr., to death.

Prior to the slaying, an Amber alert was issued when Glass called the mother of his son, threatening to harm him. Unfortunately, by the time the authorities caught up with Glass, he had already successfully kidnapped the young boy. It was during the pursuit that officers observed Glass performing a stabbing motion in the car, which was later discovered to be the fatal blows.

Police gave chase until Glass crashed into a building at which point he fled on foot. Police officers continued pursuit until Glass broke into a home where they fired on and killed him. Unfortunately, they were unable to kill the [expletive deleted] before he fatally and purposefully injured the innocent child.

Reading this story on CNN’s Web site filled me with hate and rage. Was it simply moral outrage?  I don’t know. Was it because I’m a new father, writing this piece not three feet away from my son’s crib, while he coos, gurgles and gasps that makes this story really hit home, leading me to feel bent with dark emotions and a lust to exact some type of revenge? I don’t know, but probably. O’Mara, Jackson, Batson and Gaertner (2011) would suggest the latter. In their latest article, they found evidence that suggest people are generally more motivated by personal anger and want of revenge than moral outrage per se.

Now that I’ve had a chance to look over their work and reflect on the news of this brutal murder, for the most part, I agree with the authors, O’Mara and friends. But I’m not sure if we should distinguish want for revenge from moral outrage. What about righteous retribution? Isn’t it just revenge with a moral bend to it? I’m a bit of a moral relativist, but I know I feel strong social emotions when reading about these types of stories that might just key into my morality (i.e., it is bad to kill one’s kids therefore I get angry reading about it). I explicitly know that I’m glad Glass was killed, but I’m mad that it was the police that got to do it. And, as a quick aside, what an easy way for Glass to go—shot by professionals who know where to put a bullet.  Nevertheless, if Justice were a force of nature, as in the Roman sense, that truly reflects the morality of revenge, then the family, the mother even, would have been able to exact revenge slowly, painfully and with less precession. If that were the case, then it would be hard to deny that our justice system reflects our vengeful, moral nature. Sadly it doesn’t. But, hopefully, in future cases, it will.

Follow link to CNN’s Coverage of this Brutal Story

Follow link to O’Mara and friend’s (2011) article mentioned above.

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