Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Mathematics of Hope


“I know the world’s being shaven by a drunken barber—I don’t have to read about it.”

This quote from the Frank Capra movie “Meet John Doe” defines my relationship to newspapers and TV news. I’m neither ashamed nor proud of it. I just know myself well enough to realize that a constant barrage of what passes for news shuts down my sense of hope and faith, sparks my outrage in unhealthy and unproductive ways and weakens my immune system. Of course, I recognize that as a concerned citizen, the kind I think we all should be, it is my responsibility to be informed. But mostly, the important news comes through in some form or another and instead of reading newspapers, shaking my head at the next heart-numbing story of human ignorance and depravity, I turn my energy to cultivating the promise of young children.

So in light of the above, I was hesitant to turn on the TV to see the jubilant crowds celebrating the murder of Osama Bin Laden. I well understand the sense of relief and satisfaction that comes when the bad guy gets his just desserts— I cheer in the movies along with the rest of the crowd. But is it really wise to show these images easily viewed by Al Qaeda supporters looking for yet another reason to plot revenge? Is it morally consistent to applaud the death of one tyrant while passing over the various American presidents and government officials who officially sanctioned and supported death squads in Chile, Nicaragua, Guatemala and beyond? Is there any cause for celebration knowing that just as one dictator is brought down, the next one is being groomed to take his place? And finally, is exultation over anyone’s death the morally-appropriate response?

Martin Luther King (along with Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and some other high-profile figures) didn’t think so and it feels like his words have a relavance worth pondering amidst the media circus (thanks to my daughter Talia for passing it on):

“I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. 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.”

This is the math we should teach the children. Hate + hate= Hate2
                                                                           Hate + love= Hope
                                                                           Love + love= Love2

When the newspapers print this headline— “I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy”—then perhaps I’ll renew my subscription.

1 comment:

  1. Dad, Martin Luther King didn't say that! Turns out some girl posted that first line (her own words) and then the rest of it (an actual MLK quote) as her facebook status and through the powers of the internet, it got copied and pasted without regard for the quotation marks. Just wanted to clear that up

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