Some Thoughts on the Celebration of Violence & Revenge

Ok, so the news is still sinking in, or, rather, it should still be sinking in. But before anything has had ample time to sink (not the news nor the body of bin Laden) and register in a lucid, meaningful discourse, the story's been sold and embraced as a cause to celebrate as opposed to a cause célèbre. This should be a time for reflection, but instead it's been seized as an chance to restore a (frankly) distressing and ugly strain of national pride.

Glenn Greenwald has a great article over at Salon that pretty much sums up how I feel about the present national celebration, and I'm not sure I have much to add...

I will say that I'm glad for how it will likely help to ensure Obama's reelection, but aside from that I think this should be an opportunity for reasoned solemnity, not bloodthirsty and vengeful pride. If we aspire toward some "moral superiority," as we always seem to, maybe we should start by responding rationally to a violent echo of an even more heinously violent shock, now nearly a decade past but still fresh in our collective consciousness.

Murder, even that of a loathsome mass murderer (along with, let's not forget, four other men—including one of bin Laden's sons—and a woman reportedly used as a human shield*), will not undo the atrocity of 9/11. Revenge will not heal any of those wounds; not the emotional ones nor the arguably more critical global, diplomatic, and political ones. Taking this event as a cause to chant "USA" simply doesn't seem sensible.

I'm not often one to quote the Bible, but our friend Matthew Streib posted a good line today: "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice." (Proverbs 24:17) There's one sentiment from that book that makes sense to me.

At N+1, Richard Beck has an excellent personal account of the celebrations at Ground Zero last night.

Finally, after figuring out that I—along with many others, apparently—was fooled by some memetic misquoting (misattribution gone viral**), I can safely share this sage quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“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 multiples hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” — from Strength to Love
(It seems there are a few variations in different writings/speeches, but this one's easiest to corroborate.)


* Update: Here is the official report of the raid.

** Another Update: The fake MLK quote originated from an accurately puncuated Facebook post by a woman named Jessica Dovey.


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