Martin Luther King and Osama Bin Laden

On Monday, May 2, 2011; I walked into my work and saw the newspaper headlines. “U.S. Kills Bin Laden.” As I walked through the hospital, I passed TV screens of thousands of Americans in the streets chanting and cheering. People as excited about the death of Bin Laden equal to their favorite team winning the Super bowl or World Series.

I was shocked in horror. Bin Laden was certainly a man who did evil, supported evil, and financed evil; but what does it say about us a Americans, as human beings if we allow ourselves to rejoice in the death of a being– any being.

Determined to share my feelings, I posted the following on facebook–

“It is the compassion we show to those who we feel deserve it least that measures our capacity to achive the four sublime states of metta (unconditional friendliness), mudita (compassion), karuna (sympathetic joy), and uppekka (equanimity of emotion). And so today, I weep for all those who passed on 9/11 and for Bin Laden who could not find such compassion in his heart.”
 Almost instantly people started responding with positive comments. Many others felt as I did. One friend shared with me a quote by Martin Luther King, who shared an almost Buddhist response.

‎”I 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.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr

Unfortunately, I learned later that this quote was not by Martin Luther King Jr. The quote was written by Jessica Dovey who used bits of MLK speeches and personal comments to create her own thoughts. She then gave Dr. King credit as she posted it on her own Facebook page.

I don’t know why she did it, but I am sure she never intended it to spread out too far from her own page.

The sadness is that it is a good quote and is now being dismissed because it was mis-attributed. I wish that this quote had been MLKs, because it struck a chord in many people who feel the honest sadness of any death, regardless of the life the person led.

It is important to practice loving kindness, unconditional friendliness, and an open heart towards all beings– even those who are unkind, cruel or evil. It is not a statement of endorsing bad behavior, but part of our self transformation to being more compassionate beings. How we treat those hardest to love is a good measure of our own capacity to love.


Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Buddha, Ethics


Born Joshua Hudson, Reverend Sumitta (his ordained name) finished a twenty-year career as a military photo-journalist, and became a Licensed Social Worker with continuing studies in Mental Health, Healthcare Advocate, and Buddhist Minister. Currently, he works as the Director of Psychological Health and Primary Prevention of Violence for the U.S. Air Force. Previously, he served as the healthcare patient advocate for the Veterans Healthcare Administration, and is a License Clinical Social Worker, with a Master’s in Clinical Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, working as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselor, public speaker, trainer and personal/family advisor. His dharma name "Sumitta," which translates to "Good Friend" in Pali.


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