“I 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.
In this post ecstatic moment where we are celebrating the culminating act of what is perceived as justice, I could not help but sit by and wonder at the amazing reality of it all. Until the quote above came my way from a friend, I had no response to the death of Osama Bin Ladin… but something is just plumb wrong. As a corollary to that, I feel the echoes of Barbara Tuckman in March of Folly…. why do governments, societies, actually work to their own disinterest in times of great success? This eternal question haunts my thinking over and over again when I look at my own country’s actions for numerous years.
We are in many ways playing out the same pattern that has been played out in human history time and time again. The Athenian Empire post Persian defeat turned into the police of the Aegean Sea which lead to their own collapse and conquest by their friends and neighbors. In the middle of their decline they attacked a small country for not paying tribute which was unilaterally being enforced – Megara. Or the Romans constant need to expand to gain more tax wealth… or there is the eventual end of the French when they expelled the Hugenots…. In each case these were the intelligent societies filled with philosophers and critics who clearly warned of impending doom.
Since the US started to entangle itself in world politics, an act Washington warned us against, we have not been able to live without the enemy, the other, the fateful external force that has become our unifier. First global fascism (a political fear), then communism (economic fear) and now the worst form of all religious terrorism (religious fear). We hunger for an enemy, we need an enemy…. we strengthen our enemy to strengthen ourselves. That’s the key.
But more clearly we distract our selves so as not to change anything in our own home. These enforced and reinforced enemies build our self importance and justify our actions in the self directed moral court of opinion. The critics have no voice, or they are lost in the cheers as one pathetic person loses a life… how many will replace him?
If you want to strengthen a religious movement, oppress it. This is how the Christians ended an empire of enlightened fools. Every global movement, especially religion, has had to walk through the desert of their being to strengthen and morph it into the global force that it has become today. Who will be left on the plains of Megido? Ultimately, we as a human race are empowering the least common denominator of human existence every time this occurs, because we support pure survival at the cost of every other enlightened value our cultures and societies hold to be essential. In the name of the survival of the US, we become the invaders of other cultures and capitalize on our need for war at the expense of everything we hold to be good and holy.
But what should we do? It may be hard, but revolutions end when the sides have run out of bullets or people to wield them. Unfortunately the bullets now can escalate into global thermonuclear war. And there will be no one left. Watching Unthinkable, a movie about these issues, I was horrified at the view the authors were giving the world, but at the same time glad that it is out there. Ultimately, we may hate many things, but the reasons are lost in the conflict. So much evil has been done in the name of the good that no one is blameless, not a single culture or people in the world.
It is clear that the light can and does push back the dark. That not a single act of violence has ever led to an act of compassion. Only compassion overwhelms the darkness the violence within our souls and shadow selves. The question is just how many people will have to die until we scream in terror at the beings we have become in the name of …… whatever.