Monday, September 17, 2012

Violence

I love this quote:
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
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."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The last part of it has been ringing through my head for a few days ("Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."). There are several reasons why.

First, I have been listening to a book on CD with my kids. It was Council of Mirrors by Michael Buckley. It is the ninth book in the Sisters Grimm series. SPOILER ALERT: I won't give the whole plot away, but if you are planning to read this series, then don't read what I'm about to write. I will give away the ending. Basically there is a family, the descendants of the Grimm brothers (the fairy tale guys). And the Mirror (you know, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall) is trying to kill Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, because it has been prophesied that only they can defeat Mirror. Well, they've tried several plans and nothing has worked. Then suddenly they are face to face with Mirror, Mirror is about to kill their family and Sabrina suddenly realizes that Mirror is doing all of these things because he is completely lonely and has never felt loved. Suddenly, she sees that anger, hatred, revenge and so on will never help her defeat Mirror...he is stronger and has more of all of these negative emotions than she does. So suddenly, she begins pouring out love to him. She gives him the love her parents have given to her. She gives him the silly words that her sister Daphne makes up. She gives him the wet kisses that their dog gives them. She gives him the protection that Mr. Canus and her uncle have provided her. She gives him all the love she has inside her, all the joy, all the happiness, all the confidence and respect and peace she has ever felt...it pours out of her, and he is overcome by it. She tells him that she is his friend and forgives him for the wrongs he has committed. I tell you that I was crying in my car as I listened to this. I've enjoyed this series (my girls have LOVED it), but I was getting a bit frustrated by it in the past two books. But I found the ending so powerful, and so much better than I would have predicted.

Then, last Tuesday, was of course, September 11. Eleven years ago the attacks occurred on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. A day none of us will ever forget. And last Tuesday, Islamists broke into a US embassy in Libya. Four Americans were killed. Of course this is tragic. But it is all too easy to generalize these and other attacks as the work of Islamic fundamentalists and then to assume that all Muslims are bad. An idea that I find very troubling. There is much that is good and beautiful in Islam. Many Muslims are good, honest people. Just as many Christians are good, honest people. But so much evil can and has been done by people who claim to be following Islam or who claim to be Christian. Sadly, plenty of Christians have killed in the name of Christianity in the past.... and still do in some parts of the world. In their pure forms, neither religion teaches hatred or murder ...but many practicers of each religion have twisted the messages and have used the Bible or the Koran to support their own messages of hatred. I'm sure that it is one of the reasons that so many people dislike religion. Many Muslims are good, honest people... just as many Christians are not Christlike at all. I hope that I, and those I love, can always be counted among those who try to be like Christ and show love to people of all backgrounds. I believe we should stand up for what we believe in, but also show respect to those who believe differently. It is tragic what happened in Libya. It is tragic what happens all over this world when people let anger and hatred rule over them. No wonder we are taught to forgive until 70 times 7, because there will be no peace or joy in this world if we can't learn to love and forgive.

And finally, I just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. It is a novel set during World War I. It deals with the genocide of approximately one and a half million Armenians in Turkey. Bohjalian's ancestors survived this genocide which is what lead him to write the book, although it is fictionalized. The book is graphic in parts...which is to be expected because the Turks beat, starved, raped, beheaded and marched women and children through the hot desert to place them in camps. It is so reminiscent of the holocaust. There was hope and love and futility and tragedy all mixed together in this novel. And it made me sad. How many people will be murdered because of the color of their skin or their race or their religion or the language they speak? Will we, as humans, ever learn the lessons that Dr. King tried to teach? That Christ taught? But at the same time, books about the holocaust and this genocide and other tragedies also bring a measure of hope and peace. After all, there are those that survived and made good lives for themselves despite the odds and despite the terrible degradations. And there are those that fought back, those that rescued and protected Armenians, that nursed them back to health, and so on. Despite the horror and cruelty that can be found, there is also, always, good. So I choose to try to focus my thoughts on the good that can be found in humans. I try, not always successfully, to fill my life with love and to show love to others. I fall down, I fall short, but I will keep trying to make sure that my life and actions are filled with love and light, not hate and darkness.