“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.” Quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The relevance of these words are no less true today than when they were spoken more than 50 years ago though the context has changed. Violence is so much a part of the American culture today that we fail to recognize its severity.
We have glorified violence from the earliest of times when books were written how we won the West over the savage American Indians to the Civil War to films about WWI and WWII and the Korean war to the Vietnam war and now the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and many wars in between. TV programs such as the various CSI’s remain popular. Theaters play futuristic war movies for adults and fantasy wars for kids.
There are many who believe that their right to bear arms is more sacred than freedom of expression and will stop at nothing to defend that right. They want no laws that restrict the ownership, sales, distribution, and possession of this ultimate in violence, war, death and mayhem.
Every couple of years there is a mass shooting somewhere claiming the lives of many innocent victims, many young school children. 11,000 violent gun related killings occur on average every year in the U.S. Shootings and violence so pervade our culture than all but the most sensational get notice in the press.
We have been involved in many wars abroad resulting in the death and injury of thousands of troop each year who inflict even greater casualties upon their alleged enemies. Few years go by in peace before we get involved in another war. It is as if we need to get our troops involved in a war because they were available.
We keep on repeating history. We are so numb with glorified wars and violence that we forget the pain and suffering violence bring in destroying the lives of all its warriors and innocent victims. When our troops take out an enemy and the enemy retaliated and takes out more of our troops our response is to retaliate with overwhelming force. But this only provokes the enemy to fight harder and the conflict escalates. When the police kill someone this sometimes results in angering people to riot resulting in even more loss of life and injured.
A few people such as Dr. King stopped to think if there was a better and peaceful way to break the vicious spiral of violence. The fact that this is so seldom done is indicative of how deeply rooted violence is in our culture. We have engaged in more wars than any other nation since the beginning of the cold war. Yet we view our nation as the peace keepers of freedom and democracy. We use the might of our military to great excess. We win battles but loose our long term objective of regional stability.
Even within our own borders we cannot stop gun violence. Every time there is a sensational gun killing we vow to pass laws that will reduce gun violence. Yet little is ever done. We claim victory when gun violence decreases by a few percent when it needs to decrease by 75% to catch up with other developed nations.
So what are the solutions? For starters we should take Dr. King’s words more to heart: “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Love may sound like a strange solution but it worked for Dr. King and also worked for Gandhi. Perhaps we should first learn how to “Turn the other cheek” as another great leader of peace spoke over 2000 years ago. Strange words for today’s world though many of us learned about this in Sunday school. I wonder why it seems no longer relevant? I believe that if we cease our violence upon others they will eventually reciprocate.
No matter what anyone says there is simply too little love in this country. There is a lot of tolerance and even more laws but little genuine Love. Conditional love is most widely practiced in America: one earns love if one conforms to the expectations of the one claiming to love. Instead Love should be the unconditional acceptance of people as they are, not as one expects them to be. Love is willingly given, not something earned or deserved. Love embraces diversity.
We need to stop making moral judgements of others as the first step towards beginning to Love unconditionally because Love does not judge, instead it is given. That is the simple but undeniable truth for overcoming violence. This does not mean that one should be oblivious of who the other is. But it does mean that one should wisely treat others with dignity and respect. After all Dr. King was no fool.
Wars and violence do not win peace. Peace exists when violence is no longer a way of life. So why not end war and violence to bring about a better and peaceful world? Simply stop violence and fighting now and peace will automatically replace it. Let us substitute revenge with forgiveness and replace everything else with Love without judging who is better or who is right. Let us all strive to become winners in Peace and Harmony.
Happy birthday Dr. King where ever you are and thank you for rekindling America’s founding vision.
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