Remember Gandhi

Remember Gandhi.  Practice nonviolence.  Adhere to nonviolence.

 mahatma gandhi

Refrain from attacking people as the means to achieve an interpersonal goal.  You seek to change policies and systems that make policies, and attitudes and behaviors implementing policies of injustice and oppression.

In opposing pernicious systems and the policies of pernicious systems you bring about change through clarified strategy, organized, and often sustained, nonviolent resistance, nonviolent opposition, nonviolent public action—marches, strikes, teach-ins, etc.

Resorting to violence causes reactions that threaten to undermine the goal of humanizing and inclusionary changes.  Violence which sets group against group further breaks apart the bonds of recognition of common and shared human worth.  Through violence one group of people is hardened against another.  This is the operation of war.  Nonviolent protest is not warfare to prove that might makes right.  It is not an attrition of assault and destruction. Nonviolence is not what violence is; does not want what violence wants.  Nonviolence is not a commitment to conquest and exchanging one set of the terms of domination and dominators for another.  Nonviolence is a commitment to compassion—compassionate renouncement hand in hand with compassionate affirmation—and personal and societal changes in the direction of expanding and extending what is good in human nature and thereby indiscriminately good for the whole of humanity.   Nonviolence is commitment to redefining commensality: who is invited and who is welcomed to the table of life, seated in the agape of authentically having a place of belonging, equal to all.

In nonviolent protest means and goal must commence and must be maintained integrally.  At the heart of nonviolent protest is not only the issue of justice but also of dignity.

In the process of realizing unity of purpose, people in opposition must be brought over into justice through personal and collective recognition and change, not assailed through fear and armed through violence into camps of irreconcilable enemies.  Gandhi insisted on the higher moral discipline of nonviolent protest and distinguishing between systems and policies of injustice and oppression and those human beings engaged with the systems and policies. Gandhi called his own nonviolent movement “inclusiveness’”

Nonviolence requires sacrifice and endurance and maintains openness to meaningful dialogue.  Nonviolence seeks peerage and mutuality, not a transfer of discrimination and oppression. Not a transfer of weapons, but the elimination of the weapons of violence from liberational discourse and liberational behavior and an attainable future liberated from fear; free from fear in the minds of people and on the citizen-streets of neighborhoods, cities, states, and the nation.

Remember Gandhi.  The road of violence is the hardening of separation, the conduct of war, the road traveled in the shadow of martial law.  The way of nonviolence is the path to liberation.  It does not demand absolutes.  It does not break its own promises.  It does not pursue the making of enemies but insists on achieving changes all parties engaged can be brought into living with.  Nonviolence knows how to keep the faith.  It achieves itself in the great work of humanism.

In the end the goal of nonviolent resistance is not to increase hatred, not to intensify non-recognition, not to stigmatize others yet again, but to create a common ground for the mutuality of recognition and justice without prejudice, without enmity.

The far, far too frequent tragedies of police violence against Black Americans, resulting in emotional harm, physical injury, incarceration, and death is not to be denied.  The canker in the soul of American power is historically deep; a sickness that extends beyond more than one race, crosses more than one color line. This too cannot be denied. Along with legislative changes, howsoever necessary and comprehensive, people within themselves are best changed through changes in perception; literally how do we look upon one another, what or who do we see when we see the otherness of others; and through the strength of goodness that invites, through that which embraces, not the weakness of exclusion and profiling, and the perfidy of violation.  It is this awareness and watchful goodness which is trustworthy and upholds the rights of self and others equally.

Nonviolence dissolves privilege to widen the scope of acceptance and friendship.  The symbol of nonviolence is not amassed rage on one side with an armed blue line opposing.  The symbol for nonviolence is the circle where a plain of converse in pursuit of fruitful exchanges for the betterment of enduring change is level.

We might sense here the vital link between nonviolence and a purification of democracy, between “inclusiveness” and the democratic ideal and promise.  Dr. King knew and believed in this link, this bond of human life, as a powerful lesson of the great work gleaned from Gandhi, and yet to be fulfilled.

David Sparenberg is a world citizen, environmental & peace advocate & activist, actor, poet-playwright, storyteller, teacher and author.



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