America’s New Hot Potato
As an American and fellow human being, I found myself squirming uncomfortably in my chair as the news reports came flooding into Europe yesterday of people outside the front lawn of the White House chanting “USA! USA!” – the newly minted catch-all for “We, the ignorant many, approve!” I have often (somewhat jokingly, somewhat seriously) said that I feel some people just deserve to die. But the severity of that opinion suddenly struck me yesterday and I began to find myself wondering how many good American Christians there were in the crowds cheering those sentiments. And by “good American Christian”, I mean the kind of people who are armed and ready with their plethora of bible verses in order to defend a gay man or woman’s ineligibility to marry, or a fetus’s right to life, but suddenly go deaf when one quotes Matthew 5:39 “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Where was that compassion Jesus preached of when Bin Laden was killed? Where was the feeling of oppression that comes with the murder of another fellow human, or the desire for the fairness with which we too would want to be treated should the time come when we are judged for our sins?
But then comes the justification that good American Christians are so good at throwing around: “Bin Laden was a mass murder. You don’t turn the other cheek to a mass murderer. He’ll just keep murdering. And that’s not right or fair.” “He killed your countrymen too. Why aren’t you more compassionate to them and their families?” “Bin Laden needed to die! It was our objective and the only way we can win this war!”
Bin Laden was a mass murder, and he was evil in the ways he preyed upon the hatred and distrust that so many feel toward the United States and its citizens. And to be perfectly clear, I do not, in any way, support the actions of bin Laden or any part of his terrorist organization. What I sympathize with, however, is the animosity so many people feel towards my home country. Those who have fallen victim to al-Qaeda’s propaganda have done so because of that driving hatred and distrust I mentioned. And where do those feelings come from? As my fellow Americans know all too well, it’s a natural reaction to do harm to someone who hurts you, your family and your country. It’s what spawns that immediate desire to react with joy when someone who has hurt you has been hurt.
But are immediate reactions the right reactions? Throwing water in someone’s face out of shock, hitting someone out of frustration or stabbing someone out of anger are generally regarded as inappropriate forms of behavior. So why should cheering at someone’s death be any different? Do we really feel that much better after tallying the totals of the people killed by al-Qaeda terrorists, the soldiers dead and wounded overseas, the civilian casualties, the money spent on war and intelligence, the losses from the economic crisis and resulting lost morale… Really, the numbers are numbing, and the Pyrrhic victory is ours.
But the death of bin Laden is going to put an end to all of this, right?
I’ll leave the lately oft-used quote by the great orator and promoter of love and understanding, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to fill in the blanks:
“Are we seeking power for power’s sake? Or are we seeking to make the world and our nation better places to live. If we seek the latter, violence can never provide the answer. The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 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.”