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. (Attributed to Martin Luther King Jnr).
I know this quote has been widely disseminated , and I know it isn’t all by Martin Luther King, but it does capture my feelings about the celebrations at Osama bin Laden’s death. (And thanks to my cousin Natasha for alerting me to the quote.)
I can agree that the world is better off without people like him, but I don’t think his killing is a cause for celebration. The terrorism of September 11 is horrific, unjustifiable and sickening. And so are so many other deaths in armed conflicts around the world. If we were serious about stopping these deaths we would put an end to the arms trade as a starting point.
Yes, we need to fight terrorism but I am with Martin Luther King in the belief that the means and the ends cannot be separated. If we want to end violence, we need to end it with nonviolence. When I explored the implications of nonviolence for youth work a few years back, I used the Martin Luther Kings quote that has inspired the false attribution. Here is a slightly extended quote.
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 (King 1967, pp. 62-63).
King, M. L. (1967). Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? New York: Harper and Row.
Stuart, G. (2004). Nonviolence as a Framework for Youth Work Practice. Youth Studies Australia, 23(3), 26-32.
Stuart, G. (2006). What does Gandhi have to say about youth work? Youth & Policy(93), 77-89.