Op/Ed By George Payne
As always, President Obama is spot on when he celebrates the inherent beauty of diversity, and openly rejects the sinister nature of identity/tribal politics. I also appreciate his call for American citizens to wake up, and finally retake control of their nation. As he powerfully reminded us, “We the people,” are the three most important words in our Constitution.
That said, I am perplexed by the president’s invocation of Dr. King, and his call for a non-violent revolution based on the power of “unarmed truth and unconditional love.”
These words are absolutely meaningless, in light of what he said about hunting down and destroying human beings who engage in terrorism. To be honest, I don’t care if the president is a political and moral realist. I don’t care if he believes that ISIS, and other groups like them, deserve to be wiped off the face of the planet. That is his prerogative, as commander in chief. But, please stop summoning the name and legacy of Dr. King, to endorse a worldview that advocates justified warfare. “Unarmed truth” does not mean having “the strongest military in the world.”
Furthermore, “unconditional love” does not mean loving everyone, except people who commit atrocious crimes. The term “unconditional” means love without exceptions. It means to love the most heinous individuals, despite how much danger that act of love puts us in. It means to love ISIS, even when they behead journalists, bomb patrons at restaurants, rape women and children, and tear at the seams of our way of life.
I am not claiming to possess this type of love. I am ashamed to admit I have too much egoism, anger, and fear inside of me to harbor this degree of mercy. But, President Obama should not have claimed to believe in it either, when he’s ordered drone strikes, authorized black-ops raids, asked for war-making powers from Congress to escalate conflicts, legalized assassinations of foreign leaders, and stripped citizens of fundamental privacy rights in the name of national security. The whole campaign to close Gitmo has been a complete and utter farce from day one.
And, besides the State of the Union, how often have we seen the president out on the trail pleading for Americans to support his call to shut down this gulag?
Again, I am not challenging the president’s executive action to wage a relentless campaign against supposed enemies of the state. However, what I have a problem with is his use of King’s legacy to sanitize the slaughters which have accompanied these decisions. When the president highlights the efficacy of 10,000 airstrikes in Syria, and elsewhere, that celebration can be re-translated to mean hundreds of innocent children have been killed, countless animals have been mutilated, natural resources have been squandered, and the earth itself has been immeasurably scarred.
Dr. King would not have supported- under ANY condition- the killing of our children, the destruction of our planet, or the random massacre of other non-human lifeforms.
President Obama has found a way to rationalize and stomach these killings, as a matter of his official duty. I know that he has neither sought out, nor relished, having to make these decisions. But, that has nothing to do with Dr. King.
Dr. King would never have brought himself to sanction institutional violence on this level. Like Christ, King died nearly alone, in a pool of blood, without a gun in his hand, or a vengeful desire in his heart. By the time he was taken out, by the same forces which Obama touted in his speech, he had stopped using his loyalty as an American to justify the use of violence against God’s children. Instead, he had given up his nationality, for the prospect of a beloved community without passports, walls, tribes, armies, or restrictions on human love.
King died a free man, but this blessing did not come cheap. It required him to have a love for diversity which went way beyond skin tone, sexual preference, worship style, age, physical ability, or mental intelligence. Love of diversity includes loving what one finds unlovable.
In the words of MLK: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
I did not hear that quote in the president’s address.