Killing the “Enemy:” What Happened to Nonviolence?

May 6th, 2011, by

At the demise of Osama bin Laden, I felt tremendous grief – for his victims and their families, for the United States and its loss on September 11th and for Osama bin Laden himself. He was a man after all. A man who went astray and used his life for evil purposes.

That last part might make many people uncomfortable or angry – that I felt grief for bin Laden. You can let me know how you feel in the comments below. But first, you must understand my moral compass always points me in the direction of love, compassion, forgiveness and bridge-building. I do not believe in “enemies.” I adhere to a belief that every person on this planet (EVERY PERSON) is a member of a global family. We are brothers and sisters. And when our brothers or sisters go astray and injure another member of the family, we are obligated to pray for them (if you believe in prayer) and to bring them to justice.

That brings me to bin Laden’s killing.

The United States, under the leadership of President Obama (a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, no less) shot and killed a man. Granted, this man was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, but why not capture him and bring him to trial? Killing him was revenge. What message does that send about the United States? That we are violent? That we use force to solve our problems? That we hunt down our enemies, annihilate them and thump our chests?

And that brings me to the celebrations in the streets.

Some Americans, upon learning of the death of bin Laden, took to the streets to celebrate his death. They cheered and shouted and clapped as if they were at a parade.

So my grief continues.

I do not delight in the fact that the United States answered violence with violence. I do not delight in the fact that we cheered in the streets about it. I celebrate the demise of no one. Even the demise of a man who caused as much destruction as Osama bin Laden. I also wonder where our moral leaders are. Who will speak up and speak out about our preoccupation with the use of force to solve our country’s problems?

And for those of you who care to be reminded, one of our country’s fallen moral leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed this issue in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later, all the peoples of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Read Dr. King’s full remarks here and share your thoughts below. What was your reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden?

Last modified: May 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm