When I was a little girl, certain words were forbidden in the home. They included all the ones you might expect, along with another four letter word: hate. We were not allowed to say that we hated anyone. We were also never permitted to say that we wished someone were dead—no matter who or why. My parents’ Christian faith told them plainly that hatred of other humans was just wrong. (But don’t take their word for it, just read pretty much anything in the New Testament. Probably lots of other religions have figured this out too, but Christianity is the religion I grew up with and that shaped my personality the most.)
The lesson stuck. But recently, I had started to wonder if my childhood was radically different from other Christian homes. I’ve felt inundated lately by hateful speech and actions. Transgendered people assaulted in public restaurants, a massacre at an open-air meeting in Arizona, ministers burning Korans or cheering for the death of gays and soldiers. Closer to home an acquaintance of mine believes Democrats should leave the United States so he won’t be forced to endure their presence and a relative hopes every last [epitaph for Muslim] is killed by our army. “Nuke them all,” he says.
And so, when my radio alarm clock gave me the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. soldiers, I frankly didn’t want to get up to engage with the world that day. I was sure that the minute I got online I would be deluged by people gleefully reacting to this loss of human life. I thought that anyone like me who genuinely believes that the we should never hate or wish for anyone’s death would be overwhelmed in a sea of celebratory vengeance.
I was wrong.
I have 209 friends on Facebook, and of those that referenced bin Laden’s death, nearly all of them approached the matter with a somber and reflective tone. There were many wishes for peace. There were many calls to action for us all to be peacemakers. Some were in fact relieved that he had been killed, but even then felt unable to rejoice over a human death. Beyond my circle of friends, I’ve seen many well-written commentaries by public figures that reflect on the belief in forgiveness, or on the political reality of our country’s own murderous flaws. And even the mainstream media has seen fit to make a few of these voices heard.
Apparently, we peace-lovers have been here all along. Perhaps this is where we begin to make a call for peace heard more clearly and consistently with our relatives, our friends, our role models, our leaders and even — especially — ourselves. You in?