"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wait...Revenge is Justice?

While everyone is throwing a party over the death of Osama bin Laden, I would like to share a few quotes that have been swirling around in my head since the news broke.
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” --Buddha
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, 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.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from the inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.” --Mitch Albom
“There are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.”  
--Brigham Young
“Many that live deserve death, some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise can not see all ends.”--Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring

I am so torn about what to think of the whole thing. On one hand, the guy was definitely a villain; I’m not arguing that. It’s good that he is no longer around to hurt people…blah, blah, blah (insert all arguments for his condonable extermination here). But on the other hand, isn’t it a little counterproductive to perpetuate the idea that revenge is justice? I know this is probably na├»ve and idealistic of me, but for quite some time now I’ve been operating under the assumption that responding in kind is a rather irrational option.

Anyone can see that if someone hits you and you hit back, that’s the beginning of endless fighting. Because of course the person who first hit you will not see it as Justice and will hit you back to retaliate. Then you hit him back to retaliate against his retaliation (because he deserves it, dangit!). And so on and so forth until at last, one of the adversaries CAN’T hit again. And that becomes the sole aim of a fight: to make the enemy incapable of fighting back.

But if someone hits you and you DON’T hit back, the fight is over before it starts. You not only save yourself all the trauma of the fight, but you also insure that you don’t become incapacitated, AND avoid any attendant moral dilemmas that are inevitable in the process.

Even if you take all the idealistic, moral, and/or religious variables out of the equation, forgiveness and mercy still trump revenge as the more rational, intelligent, and effective options.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is a time and a place for war; I’m no peace-at-all-costs, anti-war zealot. But I am challenging the notion that revenge is justice. And if the majority of us think it is, do we have any hope for future peace or freedom? That’s all.

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