The lifeless body hung by a rope. Tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t believe I was crying. I thought I was watching the execution of a murderous tyrant. I tuned in to celebrate. Why was I crying? Everything in my cultural context told me that I was supposed to be overjoyed at the execution of Saddam Hussein. I wasn’t. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Something happened to me. After a few more moments of tears hitting my keyboard, the feeling hit me like a slap in the face. I loved him.
While I could spend pages upon pages writing about all of the evil that Saddam Hussein is responsible for, I learned in the moment of his execution that evil can never drive out evil. Murder is wrong no matter who the perpetrator is. Although I arrived at a clearer understanding of the ethical nature of the situation, I still didn’t know what happened to me. How did love overcome the evil within? I mourned for a moment and then explored my feelings.
In those days, I was still rabidly conservative. I was ready to cheer on the USA. Somehow in the midst of my nationalism, my heart opened. While I don’t know if I opened it or if God did, I know that the opening of my heart was the first step to loving a stranger. Though I had loved strangers before, this was the first time I felt such love in such a pronounced way. While I wanted to shut the feelings down, I knew that I would be shutting down a piece of myself if I did. On some level, the realization that my feelings made me intimately connected to Saddam Hussein was salvific. While I am sure that this is an extreme example for most, we must remember that love for any stranger is always going to be strange.
We live in a society that teaches all of us from the earliest of ages that a stranger equals danger. With such an understanding, we should not be surprised that we have a fundamental inability to trust each other. With trust gone, we are all left to our own destructive protectionisms. Our fears consistently cause us to run way from each other. Despite our best efforts to find safety, the othering of strangers is only causing us more danger. Running to each other is our only hope. When we learn to feel deeply with each other, we discover that the stranger holds a piece of us and we them. In such a realization, we learn to feel together and discover that in each other is our future.
May today be the day that we open our hearts…begin to feel…and discover the salvation that is found in acting strangely with strangers.