”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.
On Bank Holiday Monday morning I awoke and put on my radio as usual to hear the news, where the top story was that of the death of Osama Bin Laden, announced by President Obama. What greeted me was a recording made outside the White House of crowds chanting in an ugly monotone “You are dead, you are dead.”
It sent a shiver down my spine, not because I had any time for Bin Laden, any of his pronouncements or the violence he promoted, though in practice I doubt if he was much more than a figurehead to disparate extremist groups.
What disturbed me was the lust for blood, the sincerity with which Americans wanted to extract through this ritual gloating every ounce of revenge. It reminded me of the great urban myth, that of the bogeyman (aka boogeyman), and how American foreign policy always seems to create an arch enemy for people at home to loathe with a passion.
And, truth be told, they seem to have had plenty over the years. When it wasn’t Hitler or Stalin or anyone deemed to be Communist, it was Milošević, Mao, Ayatollah Khomeni, Saddam Hussain, Colonel Ghadaffi, whoever fit the bill at that particular moment. Post-9/11, Bin Laden has been public enemy no 1, not only for a gross atrocity at the World Trade Centre, but more generally for daring to challenge American values.
The quote above from the great civil rights leader has been circulating Facebook as an antidote to the bile and hatred. It is not a matter for celebration, especially if it were to provoke further bloodshed by groups who regarded Bin Laden as a martyr, which would arguably set back by years the war against extremism and violence used to promote any lifestyle. Escalation in any conflict is greatly to be abhorred, though presumably those believing in the right of their cause will continue to fight unto the death – and in the case of suicide bombers, that is the modus operandi.
So this blog says to all those who would be joyful at the demise of Bin Laden simply this: Any death in any conflict is a defeat for the peaceful lifestyle we promote. We should never be gleeful about any death, period.