How can violence ever bring closure to violence? I considered this question while watching Zero Dark Thirty—the controversial movie on the hunt and killing of Osama Bin Laden. So much of the controversy around the movie centers on factuality and on whether or not it glorifies torture. From the standpoint of acting and cinematography, the movie is a great success. Moreover, regardless of whether or not the movie is accurate, it can prove beneficial for fostering important discussions. Here are two key questions. Should a democratic society such as the United States ever resort to torture to bring an end to mass killings and the perpetrators of horrific evil to justice? Moreover, can violence of any sort ever bring about justice and closure to injustice?
Yesterday we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. How might he have responded to the possible torture and eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden? He spoke out strongly against the Vietnam War and militarism. Would he have spoken out against America’s response to terrorism at the hands of Al Qaida? On a personal level, Dr. King was the victim of violence, but he never retaliated. He also encouraged those in his movement birthed in the church and centered on civil rights not to retaliate against their oppressors. Speaking of the church, how would King have responded to those who would claim that the response of a nation state will and should be different from the church when it is attacked? Tough questions. All of them went through my mind as I watched and pondered Zero Dark Thirty this holiday weekend.
If we live out Zero Dark Thirty in our lives and eventually destroy all terrorists around the globe, will we bring an end to the terror of hate and unforgiveness that so often rages within? Or will we only mask this internal terror, developing calloused hearts as well as fingers after pulling the trigger over and over again? In the end, will Zero Dark Thirty lead to a zero sum gain?