He That Pities the Brute is a Brute to Those Deserving Pity

In today’s New York Post, commentator Thomas Sowell did a great job unpacking the misguided and dangerous thinking behind the UK’s foolish and immoral decision to release Abdel Baset al-Megrahi — the Libyan terrorist whose bomb sent 270 innocent people to their horrific deaths over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

Sowell quotes philosopher/economist Adam Smith: “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.”

Like many a profound truth, this one has been articulated by more than one great thinker. Although I don’t recall the name of the rabbi who said it, one memorable insight I recall from my abbreviated Sunday school career was this one, spoken by a Jewish sage: “He that pities the brute is a brute to those deserving pity.”  The Torah also says, “In the eyes of a righteous man, a vile person is despised.”

In today’s world, moral relativism and the imperative to forgive at all costs is viewed as an expression of goodness that is above question–at least in polite company. But I can’t help but notice the people doing the forgiving (and in this case, the freeing) on behalf of the rest of us seem more likely to choose, as beneficiaries of their benevolence, those who commit acts of abject, irrevocable evil than lesser offenders. For instance, there have been rumors that Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of history’s largest investment fraud, may be dying of cancer. If such rumors turn out to be true, will anyone dare to suggest Madoff be allowed to die at home by the side of his wife Ruth? I doubt it. Ask most people, including liberals, and they will vehemently insist Bernard Madoff is pure evil, an unrepentant sociopath. Perhaps he is. But Madoff robbed people of their money, not of their lives.

Whereas al-Megrahi plotted the murder of 270 innocent people and robbed them, and their families, of their lives forever.

It seems pity is all too often reserved for people who commit acts of abject, irrevocable evil. In an unhealthy circular reasoning, the “enlightened” of the world have decreed that the worse the offense, the more automatic must be the mercy towards the perpetrator. But what sort of message does this send to those contemplating evil acts?

Pitying the brutes tends to backfire. And the innocent pay the price.

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