Monday, May 02, 2011

After the dancing in the streets is over

A mass murderer is dead. And I'm at a loss for the right response.

Some are rejoicing and calling it justice.

Others are saddened over this reaction.*

It makes for a complex cocktail of emotions.

Interestingly, Osama bin Laden's death occurred on Yom HaShoah, or
Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Like other Jewish holidays, Yom HaShoah moves around on the calendar from year to year; this year it happened to fall on May 1.)

And bin Laden's death came just after the death anniversary of another mass murderer. Sixty-six years and one day earlier, the man who masterminded the Holocaust took his own life.

I'm guessing there was gleeful rejoicing in the streets when Adolph Hitler died. It's a natural reaction.

But that gleeful rejoicing displays a disturbing facet of our humanity. When I see and hear the exulting over bin Laden's death, what it reminds me of most is the rejoicing in the streets of Afghanistan immediately after 9/11.

I'm hoping we can move on from the exultation and figure out something better to do with our post-9/11 emotions.

It seems to me the Jews have the right idea on Yom HaShoah: commemorate the event, celebrate the heroes, remember the victims.

Maybe if we come up with a similar observance, there will be no room for hate-filled exultation at an enemy's death.

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. Hate Multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Strength to Love, 1963 **
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* Check out these thoughtful articles:
The Trouble with Exultation by military wife Kara Withee
Bin Laden & Beyond by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Celebrating a Death by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
How Should We Respond to the Death of Osama bin Laden? by Jim Wallis
Osama Bin Laden at the Nexus of God's Justice and Man's by Jonathan Fitzgerald
Osama is Dead. Now What Should I Feel? by Fr. Peter-Michael Preble
The Christian Response To Bin Laden's Death by Rev. James Martin, S.J.
Should Christians Celebrate the Death of Osama bin Laden? by Jonathan Merritt

** In an earlier edition of this post, I used a quote that was partially spurious. Although I agree with it, it seems "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy" is not, in fact, a quote by Dr. King.

Lesson learned: always do a little research before reposting quotes from Facebook.

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