CAN WE LOVE OUR ENEMIES?
I had the privilege of listening as my partner, Carl Doerner interviewed and filmed author/historian/theologian Jim Douglass. The topic was: nonviolence confronting the power of violence. I felt moved by Jim’s wisdom, his knowledge of history and his dedication to seeking and speaking the truth. The following are my reflections on his words.
Drawing from Thomas Merton, Jim uses the term “the unspeakable”, I think to refer to mankind’s power to quickly destroy a broad spectrum of life He causes me to wonder what I would consider unspeakable: the end of beauty on our planet Earth? The use of nuclear weapons to incinerate people? One man torturing another while he screams in pain or dies? Stealing a people’s culture? Rape? We as a species are headed toward the unspeakable at breakneck speed. How can we change direction?
The key is in speaking the truth, but the forces pushing us toward the unspeakable want to keep the truth secret, because it is their lust for power that creates the unspeakable. Thus they manipulate the media that we rely on for information. Jim quoted Orwell as saying, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." A sorry thought, given that our media is currently controlled by big corporations. By this formula, our future is sealed, and we are pawns in a game we are supposed to lose.
But we can refuse to play the game, or break the rules and actively defy the un-truths we are fed every day. At the same time, which is now, we must do as Gandhi advised, “Experiment with truth,” in order to create the new world we yearn for. Such defiance is not without risk; in fact, its leaders will be targets as were JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcom X, and we who follow them will be labeled enemies of the State.
Does this sound dire? It is. But not without seeds of hope. We are many and those who would like to control us are few. We can prepare ourselves in order to take care of one another as the systems of control collapse. Our first step is to “go where we don’t want to go “– deep into the ugly truth of who wants to maintain power, the methods they use, and why.
There is power in knowing the truth and power in refusing to cooperate with the lethal game, and power in resisting –nonviolently. Jim, a theologian, uses the biblical text, “Love your enemies.” What does that mean? It means stopping them from doing harm, as you would stop a friend from driving drunk. It means believing that they too hold a piece of the truth. It means seeing them as fellow humans, who will be part of the Beloved Community that we will build together.
Events like 9/11 are “created” to justify a greater and greater concentration of power and to instill fear, while we who observed the tragedy with horror seek revenge or redemption without understanding the causes of such events. We render ourselves powerless by our own ignorance. For redemption to work, we must first know the truth of what happened, then find the humanity in the “enemy.” But often we don’t want to know the truth, for example that people within the United States power structure might have had something to do with bringing down the Twin Towers. These men might be the enemy we need to understand and to stop and finally to forgive.
What is it that allows the powerful to perpetrate such destruction? Jim says they believe in using assassination to accomplish their goals. To them, it is a legitimate tool, just like torture. I had never thought of anyone believing in assassination. I just thought of it as a bad deed planned and carried outs by nefarious individuals. To see it as a kind of sacrament – something to use as needed, not to be ashamed of – is an important shift in my understanding. In an awful way, it makes more sense. I search my mind for a motive, and conclude that there are a group of people who will do anything in order to accumulate wealth at the least cost to themselves.
What will happen when the current Empire falls, as all empires do? Will it bring us all down with it, because we have not known how to confront it with the truth, nor build the structures we need to sustain a different world?
Or will we be able, with grace, to risk the consequences of resistance and to unite our efforts towards saving the planet, its resources, its peoples and its creatures? Will we build a new society based on love, not fear and the weapons fear requires?