"I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." Martin Luther King Jr.
In the light of the news that continues to dominate the world, that's an interesting sentiment, and it is one evidently shared by many given that it has been tweeted into oblivion. But actually these are not words once scribed by Martin Luther King Jr. at all – rather by a young American woman, Jessica Dovey, on her Facebook status a couple of days ago. Somewhere in the kerfuffle to share the sentiment, some quote marks were lost; she had indeed quoted Dr King with "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that" – but the sentence above was all her own.
While it was neither her intention nor her fault that the internet became flooded with this literary imposter, that people believed the words came from King saw the fake quotation go viral. It was (and, in fact, still is being) attributed to him in all corners of the globe. It poses an interesting question about us psychologically: if Martin Luther King Jr. said it, it's good enough to share; if Jessica Dovey said it... er, I'm sorry, who?!
What Ms Dovey has inadvertently managed to do, though, is reflect the feelings of a world left reeling – not just by the news that Osama Bin Laden was captured and killed, but by its own gut reaction to that news. Emotions ran high throughout the USA after Barack Obama's speech, but after the initial jubilations at the White House and Ground Zero, what are we left with?
The world awaits solid proof, but we're told the most wanted man on earth has a bullet in the brain, he's fish food apparently. It's one in the eye for Al Qaeda for sure, but while comments abound about justice being done – and it has been – the truth is, the removal of Bin Laden from these earthly planes does little more than boost the morale of two societies left terribly injured by atrocities laid against them. It does not heal the scars; it does not bring any loved ones back.
The western world might raise a glass to the news that we finally have some sort of retribution for 9/11 and 7/7, but it is nevertheless a mixed bag of emotion because, when they stop to consider it without the fire of retaliation in their bellies, celebrating the death of a human being has little meaning for moral people.
The war will, of course, rage on. Tristan Nichols, a friend who is reporting in Afghanistan, living among the troops, put it rather succinctly on his blog post today: "If you cut off a chicken's head, it still runs around the place flapping." There will be more bloodshed yet. There is little to celebrate.
Perhaps Jessica Dovey's words, which will no doubt continue to whizz around the worldwide web, are something that Martin Luther King Jr might have said (or tweeted) himself had he been around today. Certainly they seem to soothe the jagged edges of guilt felt by people who are grateful for the news but have no desire to dance on any graves.