Discuss the effects of murder and assassination on society. Be sure to use specific examples to support your answer.

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question might be better posted on the discussion board because you will get a variety of answers and examples to your topic, which is very broad, but I will give you one example to start.

The most famous assassination in the 20th century of the United States was the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1964.  He was a beloved president and seemed to be the bright, young future of the United States.  When he was shot in Dallas, the whole country fell into an absolute state of shock.  Ask anyone alive at that time and they will be able to tell you where they were then they heard the news, much like anyone can tell you where they were when they heard about the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001.  The country was living through a a very scary Cold War, but American prosperity and the Baby Boomer generation were living a fine life. The senseless death of Kennedy shook people's confidence in all of that. The leadership of the country passed to Johnson, but things were not the same.  The unanswered questions as to why it happened linger even to today.

Assassinations are sometimes so seemingly senseless that it takes people a while to process what happened, and the conclusions are never very satisfactory, which is ultimately very unsettling. Assassinations of public figures like Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and even John Lennon make people question what most people want to believe is the essential goodness of humanity.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, I just finished the book Killing Lincoln, ... and this gave me a whole new perspective on assassination!

Put in the context of the end of the American Civil War, this particular assassination absolutely tore the country in two yet again.  The North was determined to follow Lincoln's instruction (for the most part) and accept Southerners back into the Union.  The South, hanging it's head in mourning for the Confederacy, was just beginning to accept the fact that it was merged back into the Union once again.  The death of Lincoln ignited fierce controversy on both sides.  Many Southerners were absolutely elated that the Confederacy struck again, even in defeat, ... and praised Booth's daring deed.  Knowing this fact sent many Northerners into a tailspin, wanting to seek revenge on the South.  The assassination of Abraham Lincoln, quite simply, made the task of Reconstruction much, much harder for the Union.

In short, an assassination is never, ever good for a country.  Apart from sadness, it can incite anger and even begin a war (as in the case of WWI).

boblawrence eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Murder (of a non-famous individual) has little, if any lasting effect on society.  The majority of murders occur in poor neighborhoods where unfortunately they are perceived as an expected event.  When a murder happens in an upscale neighborhood there may be a brief expression of outrage, but, in the long run, little measurable effect on society as a whole.

Once in a while there is a murder of a non-famous person that, for any number of reasons, grabs the attention of the nation.  An example would be the murder of his wife and unborn child by Scott Peterson.  In an exceptional case such as this, a murder can have a lasting effect on society.

Unlike the average murder, assassination involves a famous or powerful victim.  It has the potential to affect society tremendously.  The assassination of Anwar Sadat, for example, had a permanent impact on Middle East diplomacy.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

JFK was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, not 1964 as dated in the previous post. I was in sixth grade. Years later, I flashed back to my feelings as my teacher struggled to figure out how to conduct class that afternoon while I was the teacher trying to figure out how to handle my class after Pres. Reagan had been shot.

Assassination seems to generally be an act of desperation by an individual or group who feels so alienated from society as to be unable to express their anger or frustration in any more reasonable and civilized manner. That it continues to happen is a sad commentary on the human ability to develop better means of addressing conflict. (As an aside, does this say anything about the US and its efforts to put al-Qaeda out of commission and some of the steps that have been taken in the process of pursuing that goal?)

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Consider the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel. At the time, the Oslo peace process was in full swing, and Rabin had met with U.S. President Clinton and Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat to negotiate Israeli concessions. While the process was making headway, many people thought Rabin was being too generous and should have rejected peace talks. One of these, a man named Yigal Amir, assassinated Rabin after his appearance at a public rally supporting the Oslo Accords. The resulting ill-will as well as false accusations and blame set the peace talks back years, and perhaps decades; violence in the area has not ceased since that time and Israel is no closer to reaching any sort of truce with the PNA.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Assassinations also often elevate the person killed to a status above that which he or she would likely have held if not assassinated.   This is particularly true in the case of JFK.  Historically, he was not a great president, but he is remembered that way in part because he was assassinated.  If he had lived, he might well be the one blamed for getting us into Vietnam, for example.  If Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived, he would not be so revered because he would have spent decades leading fruitless attempts to push for economic justice (as he saw it), taking the side of unions, perhaps pushing for affirmative action.  He would have lost his moral authority and his exalted status in our memory.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While I do not have a specific example as the other posters, I wish to offer my perspective on this. Murder affects society in many different ways. Look at it this way:

1) A murder happens in a well-off neighborhood, the people of the neighborhood being to become very afraid

2) A murder happens in a poverty stricken neighborhood where this type of behavior is sen as normal.

In both cases, the people react as the society deems. Either way, a murder has been committed, but each society reacts differently based upon previous actions.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Murder and assassination (murder with a political motivation) are both terrorist acts, and the way in which they affect society is not surprising.  The shock and loss of assassination can affect an entire society or segment of society, and when an entire society mourns, it is a unique social situation.  There are also unifying elements in that mourning and loss that are unique to the assassination of beloved figures.  Murder has essentially the same effect, just on a more localized level.

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a curious question due to its wording -- assassination is a higher-class murder.  One assassinates politicians in limos, but people in cars get murdered. The term assassin itself comes from Arabic, meaning "hashish eater!" Even so, causing death to members of either upper or lower classes is not a good thing.  It reflects the utter inability of the murderer (or assassin) to resolve conflicts with their victims.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Assassinations definitely send a huge and powerful political message to a country's leaders, their citizens, and the entire world. Whether it is a tyrant being assassinated or a generally peaceful leader such as Martin Luther King or John F Kennedy, this particular act of violence changes a country's status, climate, and the course of history.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Most of these answers have focused on assassinations of famous people. Having lived in some very violent cities, on the top ten lists for the country in terms of homicide, I know the effect it can have on a community. It is worse when a child dies, of course. But any death diminishes a community by making people feel unsafe.