Is There a Right Use of Deadly Force?
This is the thorny question I took up in my new release Assassin Awakens. I’ve always loved spy stories and am a special fan of Jason Bourne films and other such characters. So, that’s one reason I wrote this new book. But there’s more.
My paternal ancestors were pacifists from the Thirty Years War in Europe (1618-1648) onward. They only went to war starting with WWI. I grew up during the Civil Rights Movement listening to King who learned nonviolence resistance from Gandhi. This was the way to change society, it seemed.
What about extreme cases of brutalization in a relationship or a violent attack where one’s life is at stake? Is killing in self-defense moral?
What if species after species is going extinct and the life of the planet is at risk, but the people responsible will not stop or even admit the situation is real? What if all legal means have been exhausted? Is there ever a time for deadly force?
Oddly enough, Vedic literature says yes. When I first started meditation years ago, I learned about the Bhagavad Gita. The hero Arjuna is torn. He is a warrior and his duty is to fight for his family and people. Yet isn’t killing wrong and bad karma or a sin? Still, shirking his duty as a warrior is also bad karma. He turns to his charioteer, Lord Krishna, for an answer. Krishna does not say, “Never kill. It’s always wrong.” What he says is, “Established in Being, perform action.” Of course, this means be enlightened, then perform action. The enlightened being is in harmony with the laws of nature and does not act outside those laws.
After the Vietnam War, the Just War theory emerged in political and military science. What is a just war? Is there such a thing? If not, how do we stop war? If so, what are the rules by which it should be fought? We all remember that refusing to obey an illegal order is justifiable—a part of this theory. According to this discussion, there are right uses of deadly force.
I contemplated this question in Assassin Awakens. The heroine Rainey was brutally attacked by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan. Rape in the military is a big problem mostly ignored. Rainey has a near death experience when the soldiers leave her for dead. She travels through the light and is handed a list of names. The instant she touches the list, she understands her mission. She is to assassinate everyone named on it. She understands this is necessary to turn the tides and bring the planet back into balance. But Rainey has a choice. Go into the light and experience divine bliss or return to earth. She accepts her mission and goes back.
Rainey works as a contract killer. If she receives a name that is not on her list, she consults a spiritual advisor that she trusts to get permission for the job. In the first novel, she receives such a name and returns to the Buddhist nunnery where she healed from her trauma in Afghanistan. They’ve given her a nickname there: Arjuna.
Rainey receives permission and takes the job. Warned not to make a martyr of a corrupt president (her target), she must stop a world-class rival assassin so she can create the illusion of a natural death. But to get close to the villain-in-chief, she’ll have to elude the evil soldiers who made her what she is today—a soldier who has risen from death with a divine mission.
Does she kill the president in the end? Or does he really die of natural causes? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
But the other question? Can deadly force ever be the correct, spiritual choice? There I can get off scot free. I write fiction. We storytellers explore questions. We don’t answer them.