Is An Eye For An Eye Ever Justified?

As I’m sure you’ve heard/read/seen, the United States conducted a mission in which Osama bin Laden “passed away.” At first, I was quite shocked. Everything we’d been told about bin Laden was that he was . Moreover, he hadn’t been in the news in ages, and all of a sudden — boom. Then, I felt empathy. Yes, I understand that this person was seen as a security threat to the United States and in some cases, the world, but it is my belief that no matter the crime, taking life is never the solution, nor is it justifiable.

Some of the archived footage of President Obama talking about bin Laden ( and ) and just my general feelings about President Obama make me think that Obama’s original intention in this mission was not to take an eye for an eye. President Obama doesn’t seem like the kind of president who is out for ‘revenge.’ Rather, I think the initial intent was to capture. Some have already , and others think . Others still, think that for the United States (and the world). Other than some of the footage I’ve seen of Obama talking about bin Laden, and my own intuition, I have no hard evidence. There may be some out there, but I haven’t come across it. Mind you, I haven’t looked very hard, either.

The “An-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye… ends in making everybody blind,” is often to Mahatma Gandhi. In looking at the wiki article for “,” Jesus Christ is also quoted as saying: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” However, there is no reference to a specific passage from the Bible (or other book), so I don’t know if that’s accurate.

Byron Katie often says, “.” When I first heard that, it took me a some time to wrap my head around what that is really saying. Defense is the first act of war. So, not the aggressor, but the defender. Sounds a bit strange, yes? She’s so eloquent that instead of trying to paraphrase her ‘thoughts’ on the topic, I decided just to include a YouTube video of her talking about the concept:

While Katie is referring to defense in a communication-sense, I think that her ideas on this topic can be extrapolated to other areas of interaction. As an example: think about a school-yard bully. On the playground, the bully pushes another kid down. In one scenario, the kid gets up, retaliates, is seen by one of the people “on-duty” for lunch and is subsequently sent to the principal’s office. Another way this first scenario could play out is the two get into some sort of brawl whereby both are left injured. In the second scenario, the kid gets up and walks away. The kid does not allow the antagonism of the bully to get to her/him. The kid just ‘brushes it off’ and leaves the situation. More times than not, the bully, who is actually seeking some sort of reaction from someone, will not follow the kid as s/he walks away, but instead, will seek out another person to bully.

Now, the two scenarios I’ve presented leave little to be desired. Many people would want the kid to retaliate or have someone reprimand the bully for what they have done — and I can understand this. But looking at this scenario systemically, the problem is much deeper. The questions that need to be asked are less about the kid and the bully, and more about the environment’s in which these two roles have grown up in. That is, what kind of things are happening in the bully’s environment such that would make the bully more likely to be a bully and what kinds of things are happening in the kid’s environment such that would make the kid more likely to be bullied? If we begin looking into the roots of the problem, we see through the veil, so to speak, and gain a better understanding of the world around us, especially as it relates to ‘unrest.’

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6 responses to “Is An Eye For An Eye Ever Justified?

  1. Moments after I finished writing this post, I noticed an article written by Pamela Gerloff being passed around facebook that speaks to a similar cause (Why we should stop celebrating Osama bin Laden's death).

  2. John C Scott

    First Osama bin Laden did not pass away, he was killed. Is it alright to murder thousand's of innocent people, for no apparent reason except for power? What if some of those people were your family and your wife, leaving you with no other living relatives. Would you be willing to pin medals on him for his actions? Just remember life gives us choices and if we make choices that do no good we in some fashion pay. Osama just collected his pay.

    • >Is it alright to murder thousands of people?
      No. But I also don't think that taking his life is justified, either, regardless of what he did.

      The issue here, from my perspective, is the environment that fosters the development of a human being such that they are so inclined to do the sorts of thing that he did.

      I yearn for a time when violence isn't a word used in daily language, instead, one only read about in history books.

      With Love and Gratitude,

      Jeremiah

  3. There is no comparing your bully example to Bryon Katie's explanation of communication. Osama bin Laden may have passed away, but it was not a natural means that led to his passing. One of the ten Commandments is you shall not kill, Killing or taking the life of another is not acceptable. One who does must pay in some form or another, passing away is good enough.

    • The bully example and the Katie example — while a stretch, I wouldn't say it's a leap.

      Saying that Osama passed by (non-natural means): it could be argued that his passing was natural, given the violence in the world today. I know this is not how you meant it, though.

      I'm not up on my "10 Commandments" reading, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't condone ending the life of another human being (I could be wrong). While I understand the 'justice' argument, (which is, essentially, "an-eye-for-an-eye"), I do not agree with it.

      With Love and Gratitude,

      Jeremiah

  4. Just came across another good article on this topic: Dalai Lama: Bin Laden deserves compassion.

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