Last Friday the horrific news of the ISIS attacks in Paris provoked immediate feelings of anger laced with revenge, and a feeling of "disgust" that the insane massacre of innocents always conveys.
Dr. Martin King, Jr. reminded us that an "eye for an eye" can result in everybody becoming blind. Biblical teachings tell us that, "For whatever one sows, that he will also reap" and "those who plow iniquity and sow trouble will reap the same."
These purveyors of carnage in Paris and elsewhere represent warring groups of fanatical Islamic fundamentalists at war, both in Syria and Iraq. France responded with bombs, and the call for 'boots on the ground' from a group of 'good-guy-countries' is being reinforced; it will, likely, proceed toward a crescendo of close-up combat.
There is the likelihood that if military action is initiated, other than airstrikes, in the end... many of our or our allies -- boy and girl soldiers -- will die along with the 'bad guys' and a host of other non-direct combatants.
'Let's get them. Let's fight them there before we have to fight them here. Those that give no mercy... should get no mercy.... They are the enemy!'
During these times of state elections, and Republican and Democratic party primary campaigns for president of the United States, we are being bombarded with various proposals as to what type of military or armed response we should pursue.
President Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East in general, and Syria in particular, is also the subject of considerable media debate, scrutiny and criticism.
The frequent references to the president by his critics and supporters provoked my memories of some of the things he said in December 2009 during his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. The President said:
"There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
"I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago -- 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.' As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive -- nothing naïve -- in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
"But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world... To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."
As I contemplate the violence of ISIL, without suggesting any "moral equivalency," I also remembered my shock and utter disgust when I heard about the Sandy Hook massacre, the Charleston Nine church killings, and continue to hear and read about the wanton daily gun violence that kills 30,000 people a year across our nation.
I hate violence in every form. Blood violence creates responsive violence. It has no purpose.... never has.... never will.
Reluctantly, however, the massacre in Paris provokes feelings of 'I want to Get Even.... not only for the killed and wounded in Paris... but for the hundreds still living who will certainly die violently before mankind, even the most hateful killers from ISIS find a better path.'
It seems, historically, that we've been fighting "those" people for a long time... in fact a whole era of time has been named "The Crusades."
First we had to save the Holy Land from Saladin. Much later we had to depose the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Then, it became our goal to save school girls from the Taliban.
We have been fighting these forcible merchants and viral believers of Islam for centuries... and it is not surprising that these same people who first brought "civilization" to ancient Mesopotamia have now learned modern technology, using it to expand their reach globally -- exactly the purpose of both the technology and the text upon which they claim their religion is based.
I have nothing specific to offer as a means either of "getting even" nor can I suggest a better non-violent path.... at least not at this time.
All I can do is wonder, as a person as close as any to the inception of the movement that now, 50 years later, has finally persisted in its flexibility to realize real and noticeable changes, to make most of the violence experienced all those years ago, truly, a condition of the past.
Following the seminal intelligence of Gandhi, Dr. King, believed, internalized and built his movement on non-violence and civil disobedience in response to systemic racial injustice.
And, he was only fighting the entrenched belief and legislated intent of the United States of America... and most of its white citizens. The legacy of his leadership against injustice continues, reminding us more than fifty years later that, if "Black lives" don't matter much to police in their exercise of lethal force as a first, rather than a last, option in making an arrest, then eventually, neither will white lives matter.
But ISIS has an even bigger adversary. They are against the civilized world... believing that, somehow, in a global society, the killing of anyone who they do not agree with, will gain them the marginalization they seek as a goal.
For them, apparently, separation is not sufficient... they want to breathe air that they declare unadulterated, and they want to take everyone else's air away. Of course, in the end, only God provides the air... and only he has the ultimate right of deciding who can and who cannot breathe.
Yes, I want to get even.... but even if my experiences and age prevent any personal indulgence, I remain confident that God, peace and justice will prevail. Even, if not in MY lifetime...
We are the ones we have been waiting for!