I have very little love for Hugo Chavez, and even less love for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's embattled president.
But, death is an awful thing, even if the departed is a machismo thug whose policies hollowed out a
, dismantled its
, and left its poor with little long-term stability or resources.
Death is death, and grief is grief, even if the life lived was lived badly. It is neither virtuous nor productive to take delight in the pain felt by the people left behind by the wicked—even if they themselves are wicked. To grieve death is human. Or, as I've been contemplating quite a bit this Lent, to grieve over the loss of life—over the rot and wickedness that causes it—is not only human, it is to be like God.
Jesus grieved; in fact, Jesus wept. He wept because he knew that death was not the way it was meant to be. To grieve over the loss of good and life is not only human; it is a reflection of God—even if the rest of your life does not reflect this. It's the sign of a green shoot, even if the record of your life and action reeks of scorched earth, sulfur, and soot.
Now normally all this business is private. It's rare that grief if caught publicly and that grief becomes a public matter. But grief did become public last week with Chavez's death, and the response to this grief by various states says a lot about the state of the health of each society.
Exhibit A is Iran's response to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comforting of Elena Frias. Ahmadinejad is in trouble back home for committing the heinous crime of holding a woman who just lost her son. Here's the image:
A man holding the hand of a bereaved mother is a terrible sin, isn't it? To us, this image is all too rare evidence of the fact that even monsters have hearts. To Iran's theocratic government, this type of thing is a crime. A cleric in Iran noted that, "Shaking hands with a non-mahram [unrelated by family] woman, under any circumstances...is not allowed. Hugging or expressing emotions is improper for the dignity of the president of a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran."
What more can be said when a state wishes to stomp on even the green shoots of humanity in the face of death? It would appear that suppression is not just saved for those wanting democracy; Iran's suppression of the grief that arises from a fate to which we are all bound is a suppression of something much more important: humanity.