Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hate cannot drive out hate.

”I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

I don't usually blog about topics political on here, as it seems those topics tend to be ones that can cause dissention amongst friends and family, and that really isn't the point of this blog. That being said, I have been feeling a heaviness this week, a sense of something very spiritually amiss while following the national response to the recent death of Osama Bin Laden.

It is an interesting phenomenon to see people actively celebrating the death of another human being. Was Bin Laden an evil man? He was a man who chose to live by the ideals of intolerance and hatred. There are many people in the world who live by those ideals. What made Bin Laden unique was that he had a tremendous ability to make other people believe in his ideals. Maybe his "evilness" was a function of his influence more than anything else.

People who live by the sword generally die by the sword, so the fact that Bin Laden is finally dead, if he indeed is, should come as no surprise. What is a surprise to me is seeing so many people making a party out of the occasion, including many members of the religious community. I came across the above MLK Jr. quote on a friend's Facebook page and the truth in it really rings clear. Celebrating Osama Bin Laden's death as though it is the end of all evil in the world is incredibly naive. And celebrating the death of any human is a reflection of the values of hatred and intolerance which have already been the cause of so much loss and sorrow, not just for Americans, but for people all over the world.

When people say things like, "we can all sleep better at night now that Bin Laden is dead" it makes me lay awake at night trying to figure out why. Are we really safer now? If we are, you will soon see the government backing up out of everyone's coolaid with their myriad infringements on our civil liberties in the name of national security. All my money, marbles and chalk says that aint gonna happen. Do you know why? Its because we are no safer now than we ever were, or ever will be until humans stop relying on wars as a way to solve our problems.

What peace of mind does that passing of Bin Laden actually offer people? Bin Laden was just a man, but the power of his ideas went well beyond what any one human is capable of. In his passing, we can hope that his ideas die with him, but they wont. There are probably hundreds of other men and women with the same ideals, and powers of persuasion waiting in the wings to take his place. Celebrating Osama Bin Laden's death is easy, in a "yeah, we got the bad guy" kind of way. But easy does not always equal best.

Especially for those in the spiritual community, this should be a sobering time, a time to reflect on the values we promote in our own lives. The only way to really stamp out the negative impression that Bin Laden has left on this earth is to fill it with an even greater amount of love and understanding. To do that takes the persistent and unrewarded work of many lifetimes, but it is, in my humble opinion, well worth our best efforts. There was this one guy, I think his name was Jesus, and he encouraged us all to strive towards this goal.

We need to do better, to put our race, politics and religion aside and engage in a meaningful dialogue with someone who is "different" or makes us feel uncomfortable. Reach out to our neighbors, to our community, and to our brothers and sisters of the human race. We need to be mindful of the ripple effect that our actions and attitudes have in our global community, and how those actions can shape the attitudes and beliefs of others. We are all children of God. All humans are born with the seeds of both good and evil, but it is our environment, and ultimately our own choices, which dictate which ones we cultivate. Water the right seeds, think about the bigger picture. Don't just go with what is easy, or pop-patriotic. In doing so, you also set an example for the people around you. You might become a light in the darkness for someone who would otherwise become very, very lost. Lost like Osama Bin Laden. It wont matter how much money we invest in wars, and military intel, Osama Bin Ladin will never be dead until we can weed out our own hatred and ignorance.


  1. Lovely as always Tara. I've been really upset by the way people have been reacting to his death as well. It wasn't that long ago that a select group of people were celebrating in the street that the Twin Towers had been attacked and many Americans were dead. That didn't sit well with many in this country, yet those same people are celebrating in the street the death of bin Laden. It seems very contradictory to me.

    A student came into class on Monday and said very loudly "Yes, the bastard is dead!" I asked who he was speaking about and he looked at me as if I was an idiot. He told me bin Laden. I responded and asked if this student personally knew bin Laden. He responded no. I then told him it seemed like quite a strong statement to make about someone you didn't personally know. I'm sure he wasn't all that great of a human being, however, he does deserve the respect of a human being, just as you and I do.
    I am now stepping off my soap box.

  2. I was thinking this same thing. I came across this bible verse on a friends post the other day and it really hit the same point.

    "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live." Ez 18:23.

    I think that the world is a better place without him but that the problem of hatred is not even close to being solved by his death.

  3. I'll agree that I didn't want to party when I heard about his death. It was a sad moment, the phrase "every man's death diminishes me" came to mind. He was someone's son. He had a mother, a wife, children, maybe even grandchildren that he played with. He was a person that Jesus died for, just like me.

    But I might have reacted differently if one of my family members, or someone I loved, had been one of the thousands (imagine - thousands!) that he claimed responsibility for killing. To them, this wasn't just a man's death, this was justice. And justice is not the same as hatred.

    I've always wondered how I would react if someone I loved was brutally murdered. Would I be able to say no to the death penalty, or would I want to be the one to throw the switch? Either way, I'd want to know that the person who killed my loved one would not be able to kill another. Up until the day he died, Bin Laden was actively working to kill. He would have been very happy to kill you and yours. Stopping him was a good thing.

    It's true that just because they've cut one head off the snake, the snake isn't dead. It has many heads. But Bin Laden had a unique gift to inspire others, he was a charismatic leader. Cutting off that head was important. Do I feel safer? No, but I didn't feel at risk, either. As one of my girls said after 9/11, I'm glad I live in a small town where they don't care if we're dead or not.

    I'll admit to one awful thought. It would have been better if he'd died after spending a few terror-filled hours in a burning building hundreds of feet above the ground, wondering why he had to die and how his family would go on after his death. A swift bullet to the head was a very kind way to die.

  4. Erin- It is interesting to hear what kids have to say about this. I have actually been doing some volunteering at ACSA this week, and it has been a little disturbing to overhear some of the kids' conversations. I think a lot of it is just repeated from what they hear at home.

    Krista- That is an excellent verse. Thanks for sharing, it may well be what inspired MLK Jr. to write those words.

    Dev- I didn't mean for this post to be insensitive for those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 bombing, or for families who have lost sons, daughters, husbands, wives and parents in the service. In fact, as I was writing this I was wondering if my perspective would be different if I was in those shoes. If anything good does come out of this it will be that some families can have closure for the loss of loved ones, albeit a symbolic one, because it sure took a lot more people than just Bin Laden to execute these travesties. I think that many of those people aren't the ones out in the street celebrating, they may just be reflecting, and hopefully finding some peace. I also hope that Bin Laden's death will help bring closure to those in the Islamic world who have been living under an oppressive regime. Countless numbers of those people have lost loved-ones as well.

  5. and Michelle, thanks for posting that quote today. It really hit home.

  6. It's ok to address the controversial, to encourage reflection and bring things to light. It strikes me how vital it is to join thousands of others in tomorrow's National Day of Prayer (May 5th). If ever our country / world needed prayer, it's now. It's not a bad thing to stop evil actions. But every soul is precious to Jesus who gave His life for us--even Bin Laden Bin Laden chose eternal judgement rather than life and that should sober everyone--not prompt a party. The hungry, the hurting, the innocent, the exploited and yes, even the hateful need our prayers. That is a call to action.
    2 Chronicles 7:14

  7. Tara, well said, thank you for writing this. Ryan and I have been really disturbed to the core about the national reaction to this killing. I seem to remember that Americans were really upset when they saw others worldwide rejoicing in the streets after 9/11...it is concerning how the national reaction is going to be viewed globally. Also, as a person of faith, it is deeply disturbing to see the amount of hatred coming from others of faith. All that said, it's been refreshing to read your words.

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