“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This is probably one of Dr, King’s most famous quotes, but it seems also to be his most widely ignored. The lesson implicit in this line is that violence always begets more violence; force invariably begets counterforce.
To me, this almost-lost lesson has taken on a new relevance in recent days. From violent protests to counter police violence which begets violence to suppress the violence of the protests in a never-ending, ever-escalating cycle to the virulent outrage and deeply hateful rhetoric against trophy hunters in the wake of the highly publicized killing of a much-loved animal.
These are without question heinous and reprehensible acts. Acts which must open our eyes, both as individuals and society as a whole, to the broader role of violence and force in our everyday lives. But to use these acts as a motivation for counter-violence serves only to amplify and intensify the response.
Many such examples pound our senses daily through the news media; far too many for it to be necessary to list them here. The correlation is obvious and undeniable.
Look back for a moment at the most effective and revered leaders over the centuries, the truest leaders of enduring, ever-broadening flocks: Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Gandhi, Dr. King. These men did not endorse violence or retribution (despite the horrendous things done in some of their names), rather they embraced forgiveness, tolerance, and loving those who hate you. In the 20th Century, both Gandhi and King answered violence and force with peace. Sitting down in peaceful non-violence to protest injustice and inequity. Facing force down with love.
–The enduring symbol of the peace movement of the 1960s is a flower placed into a rifle barrel. Where has that attitude gone? Where has the understanding that hate begets hate and love begets love been lost?
I understand your anger. I shudder in grief with every life lost to senseless brutality, whether it be an unborn child, an inner-city youth, or a majestic symbol of leonine might. But it is essential that we remember that to respond in kind is only to attract more of the same.
If for every black man assassinated by police, three officers are lost in rioting, how many more will die in the heightened tensions that follow?
If for every aborted fetus a clinic is burned to the ground, how many more lives will be lost in desperation when the clinics move underground?
If for every elephant tusk harvested, more poachers are killed, how much more expensive and precious does the ivory become on the black market?
Ever-escalating violence. Ever-growing tensions. Ever more angry and desperate people.
An ever-deepening hole of a sad and loveless world.
Love and peace are the only viable, sustainable responses.
Matthew 5:44 (KJV) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.
It doesn’t get clearer than that, regardless of your particular religious afffiliation.
Love IS the answer.