Smart Borders

All future postings from blogger Matthew Webster will now appear on:

http://smartborders.wordpress.com

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The Effects of Not Choosing Nonviolence

“’You are unleashing certain things in a human being we don’t allow in civic society, and getting it all back in the box can be difficult for some people’, said William C. Gentry, an Army reservist and Iraq veteran who works as a prosecutor in San Diego County.” (Sontag, Deborah)

As the United States erects borders and infiltrates more and more countries with its military, it is chilling to see the effects of choosing violence over nonviolence. Today’s New York Times article entitled “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles,” states that 121 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been involved in a killing after returning home. The stories are heart-wrenching because everyone is a victim. Sadly, peace is not a choice we make after war happens. Nonviolence must be the means if it is to be the end.

Martin Luther King voiced it this way in Loving your Enemies..

Another reason why we must love our enemies is that hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Mindful that hate is an evil and dangerous force, we too often think of what it does to the person hated. This is understandable, for hate brings irreparable damage to its victims. We have seen its ugly consequences in the ignominious deaths brought to six million Jews by a hate-obsessed madman named Hitler, in the unspeakable violence inflicted upon Negroes by bloodthirsty mobs, in the dark horrors of war, and in the terrible indignities and injustices perpetrated against millions of God’s children by unconscionable oppressors.

But there is another side which we must never overlook. Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

It is startling to look back on the last 50 years of American history and cringe at the spiraling cycle of hate from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Our nation, as well as our soldiers, suffers from PTSD. How can we pay men and women to travel to other countries to engage in actions which will endanger their lives, their minds, and their souls, yet has never been proven to work and in fact has done exactly the opposite? We shiver to imagine the future of a world which continues to up its use of violence.

“’Seth has been asked and required to do very violent things in defense of his country,’ Captain Tiffner wrote. ‘He spent the majority of 2003 to 2005 in Iraq solving very dangerous problems by using violence and the threat of violence as his main tools. He was congratulated and given awards for these actions. This builds in a person the propensity to deal with life’s problems through violence and the threat of violence’.” (Sontag, Deborah)

In this century, we must dust off the proven theory of nonviolence and assert that it is not only the effective tool of the African-American girl marching in a civil rights demonstration, but also the path to diplomacy and lasting peace in the Middle East and the Midwest. Nonviolence is much more than the civil disobedience of Gandhi’s satyagrahis; it can also be a national policy which works with the opposition to create two winners and true progress. Nonviolence cannot be solely left to those of impeccable character like Martin Luther King, Jr., or the ascetics like Gandhi, or even the ornery curmudgeons like Henry David Thoreau. We have seen enough; it is high time the United States and the United Nations take the lead in truly employing nonviolent strategies not just in conjunction with military power but in stead of violence. Nonviolence is more than civil disobedience, noncompliance, more than sit-ins and hunger strikes, more than boycotts and speeches and marches and voting. It is love in action.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18a, NASB)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sontag, Deborah and Lizette Alvarez. “Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles.” New York Times. January 13, 2008. Web:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/us/13vets.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

 

This is part of an ongoing series entitled “War Torn.” Look for it in upcoming issues of the New York Times.

Whose Story is History?

     “History is written by the victors.”

     This means history is written by a scant few cultures about meager few “victories” over the silenced vanquished. History, then, is focused on violent clashes where one language, one culture, one “truth” is imposed on others. As Gandhi writes in his book Indian Home Rule, “History, then, is a record of an interruption of the course of nature. Soul-force, being natural, is not noted in history.”

     Forgiveness is not made famous. Love is rarely lauded except as the cause of events such as the Trojan War. Nonviolence and civil resistance, as a recorded mass movement, is a relatively recent development; however, nonviolence has always existed at least as long as violence. There are multitudes of people in the world too, because love is the rule.

The fact that there are so many men still alive in the world shows that it is based not on the force of arms but on the force of truth or love. Therefore, the greatest and most impeachable evidence of the success of this force is to be found in the fact that, in spite of the wars of the world, it still lives on. (Indian Home Rule)

Violence is the aberration, a suspension of sense. Cain’s selfish choice as opposed to Abel’s sacrifice

     A scan of our children’s history and geography textbooks is an overview of violence and borders slashed with swords. How much more should we teach peace and community? Nonviolence and civil disobedience should be at the heart of every child’s education. Whether or not students attain full satyagraha or not, they must understand the efficacy of nonviolence and the ridiculous futility of violence perpetuating violence. If all they are taught is war and power, then these things will seem inevitable and necessary.

     As a result, the civil rights movement has been bronzed in our minds but not bequeathed to our hearts. SNCC has disappeared and nonviolence is relegated to the Sixties. Martin Luther King did not copyright nonviolence any more than Gandhi or Thoreau. It was the reason the civil rights movement was successful, but its effectiveness is not limited to a single such issue. It can be adapted to such different issues as colonization and segregation and discrimination and education; it is only dependent on the soul-force of those willing to practice it.

     Immigration reform, education inequality, our increasingly militarized country- all of these need to be civilly disobeyed. Instead of merely looking up to the civil rights heroes of the past, we and our children must start to stand on their shoulders and continue their nonviolent soul-force to the current inequalities.