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“Osama Dead!” screamed the headlines today. In huge block letters, the Red Eye–quoting President Obama–declared, “Justice has been done.”
Was justice really done? Is this justice? It is some form of justice perhaps, but it is a fragmented and incomplete justice at best.
Justice such as this is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. As Gandhi so aptly observed, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Such an imperfect justice falls victim to the myth redemptive violence. Responding to an act of violence with an act of violence may satiate our anger temporarily, but catharsis only delays and numbs. It does not heal. An act of retaliatory violence does not fix the hurt or remove the pain. It only anesthetizes our compassion. We may not feel as bad, but we aren’t any closer to healing. To make matters worse, an act of retaliation will only embitter our enemies and strengthen their resolve. This imperfect justice breeds more hatred and stifles compassion.
Osama was killed yesterday, but justice was not done. True justice brings healing… on both sides of the conflict. True justice brings reconciliation. True justice is enemies laying down their swords and recognizing the humanity of the other.
Our country does not seek justice. We seek revenge. Either way, celebrating is entirely inappropriate. I was sickened by the crowd that gathered in front of the White House, celebrating, waving U.S. flags, and chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Did anyone in the crowd consider what message they were sending to the world? Did they consider how their actions might be perceived by the rest of the world, or by Muslims, or extremists? Is this the message we want to send?
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “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.”