Modern revenge culture, explained by Mrs. and Mr. Alito

Modern revenge culture, explained by Mrs. and Mr. Alito

Timothy Snyder writes:

We have the rule of law so as not to have a culture of revenge.

For much of human history, it was an eye for an eye, as we read in the Bible. In a revenge culture, a chieftain decides who is to blame, and the shamans explain how the blood and chaos is just and necessary.

In the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus and Euripides, the grand problem is escaping from reciprocal violence within and among families. In early discussions of European law, in Icelandic sagas or in the Primary Chronicle of Kyivan Rus, an incipient government regulates revenge, so that it does not continue indefintely.

The rule of law is a solution: if we are all equal subjects of law, then we plead our case before a court, rather than seek after blood. A constitution, like ours, gives flesh to this conception. It might not be perfect: when it is not, we interpret it in the spirit of equality and non-violence rather than grievance and violence. No one can be above the law, and no one can be the judge in their own case. A constitutional order will depend upon judges who understands these fundamental ideas.

The other day, Mrs. Alito gave us a good exhibition of revenge culture: “I’m German. I’m German. My heritage is German. You come after me, I’m going to give it back to you. And there will be a way. It doesn’t have to be now. But there will be a way – they will know.” Those remarks about the delights of revenge related to her choice to fly an insurrectionist flag after Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow American constitutional order in January 2021. [Continue reading…]

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