Beliefnet
Everyday Ethics

When I first heard Wanda Sykes’ jokes about Rush Limbaugh this last weekend ( “I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on OxyContin he missed his flight,” “I hope your kidneys fail”) the inner me cheered “Whoo!” After all, I’d been subjected for years to his tirades against almost everything I believed in and everything I am. My hometown is his hometown, which made me an unwilling audience to a hometown fanbase. Throughout this, all I could do was shake my fist futilely at the radio, TV or newspaper.

So he got his just desserts at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Take that, Rush!

But…

I somewhat ashamedly admit that I’ve been chastised in the past for enjoying revenge just a little too much.

Is this just such a case? Perhaps. There are two subjects at play here – tasteless jokes (hoping people die definitely falls under this heading) and the ethics of revenge. I’m focusing solely on revenge, because personally, that’s the hardest for me to come to grips with.

When Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind,” I don’t think he meant to exclude Rush Limbaugh. Sadly. Darn. But for the most part, online chatter on this topic seems to run in two directions – accusing Sykes of incredibly bad taste or defending her comments as retaliation for all the horrendous things Limbaugh has said in the past.

I’ll never advocate for censorship, but I needed a little reminder that keeping a scorecard on bad taste is completely useless, only serving to drive one deeper into a black hole of vindictiveness.

Push me off my high horse if you will (actually, please do, I hate it up here), but if we truly want to approach this from an ethical standpoint, revenge and retaliation has no place, does no good, and is indefensible.

I don’t think jokes wishing death upon people are particularly funny, by normal standards. So however much it hurts to say, that goes for Rush as well. We gotta rise above it, people.

Sadly. Darn.

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