Reading the first half of Rashard Mendenhall's now-infamous tweet about Osama bin Laden's death—"What kind of person celebrates death?"—I was inclined to wonder why people were so angry about his reaction. A number of people had similar reactions, as evidenced by the speed at which a partly fake Martin Luther King quote spread around the internet in conversation with that Mark Twain-attributed quote about reading obituaries. It's right to hesitate, to wonder whenever an emotion wells up unchecked by reason, and the death of another human being definitely qualifies.â†µ
Then I read the second half of Rashard Mendenhall's tweet: "It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side."â†µ
Oh, wow. That's the one. Mendenhall goes off the rails in the moment when he seems to suggest that the question isn't the validity of hate as an emotion—the very important question of whether we should allow ourselves to hate another human being, to welcome his death—so much as the validity of hate as a reaction to Osama bin Laden. bin Laden's side of the story is more or less categorically hateful, and if his actions over the last 20 years did in fact fail to properly air his own side Wikiquote has some additional incitements to genocidal violence available for review.â†µ
Mendenhall's a thoughtful guy and a self-described conversationalist, and in the wake of the blow-up he's left his tweets online, which is the right thing to do. But this is one of those cases where a Twitter undo button and a day or an hour to think about the ramifications of his tweet as currently worded might have avoided a serious and annoying offseason story and, circa Week 1, some depressing signs in the crowd.