Shared from a friend: MLK expresses the ideal: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. 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." -Martin Luther King Jr.
Curious to know when and in what context King said something so startlingly congruent with my own feelings today, I went — where else? — to Google. But all I could find were variations of the quote, disembodied from any larger source.
Then I found this, by Megan McArdle of the Atlantic: Out of Osama's Death, a Fake Quotation is Born. "Something about it just strikes me as off," McArdle says about the quote. She goes on to assert she can't find the quote anywhere on the Internet, and concludes it was made up.
But not so fast. Sifting through the rubble we call the World Wide Web, I found evidence that contradicted McArdle, at least to an extent. Someone referenced a passage from King's book Strength to Love, a collection of meditations on nonviolence he published in 1963. In a chapter titled "Loving Your Enemies," King did express at least part of the quote. Here's the section, which follows a discussion of the differing Greek terms for love, eros, phila, and the one King is interested in, agape, which he defines as "creative, redemptive goodwill for all men." I took a screenshot of the text from Google Books:
So the quote making the rounds isn't entirely specious. Intrigued now with what else the Internet would yield, I dug a bit deeper and discovered an earlier evocation of the same idea by King, using much the same language. On Martin Luther King Online, I found the text of a sermon the master preacher delivered November 17, 1957, also titled "Loving Your Enemies." The passage in question comes up in the lesson of a modern parable:
A decade later, in 1967, as riots were tearing US cities apart, King reaffirmed his belief in nonviolence:
I'm concerned about justice. I'm concerned about brotherhood. I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about these, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.