There is a quote going around the internet that is attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. In reality, the exact wording that is circulating online is not a verbatim quote from Dr. King, but more of a combination of his words and messages from different written sources. The source of that particular quote, in this current situation, is actually fairly irrelevant since the reason for the words going viral are in the message, not in who originally said it.
On August 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “Where Do We Go From Here?” –speech in Atlanta. In a transcript of that speech, there is the following passage:
“I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.”
For many, it is this sentiment that we now feel. This is what I feel. Human nature and human mind are not infallible – we are creatures of emotion which often guides our actions and words more than reason. It is hard to be objective in a situation like this – for many, it is absolutely impossible. Evil needs a face, because chasing an enemy that we cannot recognize and pinpoint is a pointless hunt – and for the last ten years, the face of evil has been the face of Bin Laden. People need closure, and now that closure has been delivered. The murderer has essentially been murdered – but as the brilliant Dr. King so gracefully pointed out, that is not enough. Solidarity, tolerance, acceptance, compassion, understanding and forgiveness are all much harder to reach than hatred and the need for revenge. It doesn’t mean we still should not strive for that, as individuals, as societies, as humanity.
I disagree on this with many I love – including the person I share my life with. I understand my fiancé, who says to me “If you were killed by someone, I would want to see that person dead – I would probably want to kill them myself”. Most people, I think, feel this way. But if I was killed, I would not want my murderer to be killed – and the people who know me and love me, know that as well. It would not bring me back, and I doubt it would bring peace and justice to those who I left behind. This is a violent world, and I am afraid it will remain as one throughout my life, and probably throughout the lives of my children and my grandchildren – but it doesn’t have to mean that all hope is gone. It doesn’t have to mean that there is no room for forgiveness or compassion, that there is no hope for civilized justice, that there is no other option that fighting violence with more violence. I am not naïve, though some may think I am. I do understand that war is war, and we can’t fight terrorism with flowers and songs about love and peace – but we can try to teach our children and youth that revenge and violence are not answers to injustice. We can read them Dr. King’s words. We can install in them a sense of justice and fairness that does not equate justice and fairness with “an eye for an eye” –mentality. We can try, according to the best of our abilities and our strength, to understand and to accept that no matter how much we want vengeance and no matter how horribly we have been wronged, to fight our enemies and to fight violence and terrorism we must be able to rise above it – we must be able to be better, to be stronger. I do not think it is an easy thing to do – but I do believe it might be the only way to find light again.