A Former Right-Winger

A man and his wife died last night. While they stayed in their bedroom late at night several men stormed into the room with only one objective:  kill.  You know the story.  I’m not going to try to paint it in such a way to draw sympathy.  The fact is that I don’t have any to give.  But while it seems most of the nation wants to celebrate, the only emotion I can find is to grieve.  Not for Osama Bin Laden, but for our humanity.

The news that broke last night creates in many of us a mixed emotion that we rarely have to deal with.  My sister wrote a blog post about how it has taken her from her former hippie ways to struggling to find the problem with it.  I’ve had sort of an opposite movement in my life.  I went from a pretty right wing kinda guy to someone who wants to call himself moderate, but if I had to be labeled it would be tough to deny my liberalism.

But here’s the catch… I never believed in that right wing standard: the death penalty.  There are so many arguments against it, and none that hold water for it.  But more important for me than anything else is this:  who are we to decide who should live and and who should die?

I get it. Osama Bin Laden was the most evil living example we had.  I know that he was responsible for thousands of deaths.  I get that he was a symbolic target to declare our dominance in the war against terror.  There is no part of me that wanted any good thing for him.  But I can not, and will not, celebrate the death of this man.  There are plenty of quotes going around all over social media right now…

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. -Gandhi

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.  – Martin Luther King, Jr

Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. – Proverbs 24:17.

They’re wise.  They’re pithy when you use them right. But can we really live them?  Death only begets death.  Only life can beget life.  Justice, by definition, is setting things right.  Taking one life to pay the price for the thousands who have died sets nothing right.  It doesn’t bring back a single one of those lives.  It can’t. So if justice can’t exist we’re left only with revenge.  And if we are seeking revenge, why?  Because we value life.  But we cannot value life while celebrating death.  No matter whose death it is.

Do I think Bin Laden should have been free to roam the world?  No.  Do I know the answer?  No.  But will I celebrate that he is dead? By no means. Call me a hippie if you want… but I’m also a former (recovering) right-winger.

On Real Hatred…

Yesterday I poked a little fun at what it means to have hatred in sports.  Hate is a strong word.  I remember growing up always being told that we should never say we hate anything or anyone.  Like most words, though, the meaning has changed and evolved over time.  Now it can mean anything from wanting to seek out the death and destruction of an entire population to simply not liking a certain flavor of ice cream, or a particular football team.  It just isn’t always a big deal.

But then again, it takes only a quick glance around the world to see that hatred, in it’s most intense and brutal forms, is completely alive. Ask those living under oppressive regimes, within systemic systems of poverty around the world and in our own country, and those in abused and abandoned minorities based on race, geography, sexuality, religion, or other arbitrary aspects of their lives.

Hate is alive in our world.  In our country.  In our community.  Even in ourselves.  Search that out.  Take some perspective. Sports hatred may be a goofy, simple, and meaningless way to watch a game.  Real hatred, even deeply rooted and hard to locate without ourselves, is painfully real.

And that actually matters.