Opinion: Community, not violence, the answer to problems
This past summer, my husband noticed a bumper sticker that said, “I am not a liberal. I support the 2nd Amendment.”
The Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I think the driver of this vehicle with the bumper sticker interpreted the Second Amendment in a liberal fashion. One of the definitions of the word liberal in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language states: “Having, expressing, or following views or policies that favor the freedom of individuals to act or express themselves in a manner of their own choosing.”
And you might think that Martin Luther King Jr. always believed in nonviolent responses to violence. In 1956, during the time of the Montgomery bus boycott, King’s house was bombed. Martin Luther King decided to keep firearms at his home. “Armed watchmen guarded against further assassination attempts” (wagingnonviolence.org, “When Martin Luther King gave up his guns,” Mark and Paul Engler, Jan. 15, 2014). A fellow activist, Bayard Rustin, was instrumental in introducing Martin Luther King to the principles of nonviolence as exemplified by Gandhi. (In 1948, Bayard Rustin traveled to India for 7 weeks to study the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence.)
In 1959, at the invitation of the Gandhi National Memorial Fund, Martin Luther King made a pilgrimage to India, in order to study the principles of satyagraha. Satyagraha, from Sanskrit and Hindi, means holding onto truth. Satyagraha was introduced in the early 20th century by Mahatma Gandhi to designate a determined but nonviolent resistance to evil. Martin Luther King Jr. changed and reinforced his ways of being. He was moved to say, “Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Ask Congressman John Lewis what it was like when he marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7, 1965. Before the march, about 600 people assembled at a downtown church and knelt briefly in prayer and then began walking, silently, two by two, through the city streets. Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership conference, and John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, were at the head of the march.
“The marchers were stopped as they were leaving Selma, at the end of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, by some 150 Alabama state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and posse men, who ordered the demonstrators to disperse. One minute and five seconds after a two-minute warning was announced, the troops advanced, wielding clubs, bullwhips, and tear gas. John Lewis, who suffered a skull fracture, was one of fifty-eight people treated for injuries at the local hospital.” (The National Archives, Eyewitness, Confrontations for Justice, John Lewis — March from Selma to Montgomery, “Bloody Sunday,” 1965)
John Lewis is still working with community. I think community building is our saving grace. Our “homeland security” starts with building local, thriving community.
John Lewis with Michael D’Orso, in their “Walking with the Wind, A Memoir of the Movement,” writes, “There is an African proverb: ‘When you pray, move your feet.’
“As a nation, if we care for the Beloved Community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build and not to tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill. In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house.”
How do I feel safe? I plan on contributing to the well-being of my community. I will start here in Bristol, Vt. I will allow the philosophy of Ubuntu to guide me.
Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, explains this philosophy with this statement. “I am what I am, because we all are.” Desmond Tutu of South Africa, states, “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs to a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or dominated when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Music is another great force in our world. Pete Seeger had this written on his banjo. “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” Here is one verse of a song written by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger: “If I had a song, I’d sing it in the morning. I’d sing it in the evening, all over this land. I’d sing out danger. I’d sing out warning. I’d sing out the love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land.”
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
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