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Peaceful Civil Disobedience

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Peaceful Civil Disobedience

Fairness Trustworthiness Kindness
Patience Gentleness Knowledge
Discipline Compassion Integrity

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

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Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi practically invented the concept of peaceful civil disobedience and used it in order to end the oppressive colonial rule (British Raj) in India.
 
Gandhi was a Hindu and gave the movement a Sanskrit name, Satyagraha. Gandhi based this movement on the principles of honesty, openness, fairness, and physical and mental non-violence along with self-sacrifice.
 
A British educated lawyer, Gandhi first used Satyagraha in resistance toward a Christian nation (Great Britain) to obtain civil rights for Asian Indians transplanted in another British colony, South Africa.
 
In the United States it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who applied this concept to the civil rights unrest of 1955, resulting in dramatic changes in the laws regarding treatment of minorities in America.
 
Today as we experience more and more examples of individuals and groups resorting to violence to deal with real and imagined issues, we long for widespread application of Gandi's and King's nonviolent approach.  
 
In the article below we read Ray Waddle's opinion on the subject as published in the Nashville Tennessean on March 29, 2008. 
 
 

Americans are dying as memories of peacemaking fade

 

By RAY WADDLE • March 29, 2008

 

Opinion

Speaking to his Montgomery church in 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. declared:
 
"So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you: I love you. I would rather die than hate you."

 

King took that radical notion from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, a core Christian teaching, though not a widely held Christian belief.

And King died for it.

 

It's easier to change the subject than face his statement even now, easier to call King a flawed personality or a hypocrite than to face ourselves.

 

Forty years ago next week, I was riding home from the burger joint with my parents when the radio said King had been killed in Memphis. The news stirred dread in this 11-year-old.

 

What craziness had the adults of Christian America gone and done this time? Killing a preacher who spoke out for Americans who didn't have anything?

 

Five years after Dallas, we had tainted ourselves again with another public murder involving a gun and a scrawny self- pitying white killer. The adult world seemed a childish, squalid place that night.

 

The logic of hate is always straightforward.

 

Bully, assassin and terrorist share the same defeatist credo — "I hate my neighbor as I hate myself." Behind it stands a refusal to face one's own flaws and failures.

 

The nonviolence movement to end segregation revealed this five decades ago. The protesters, mostly students, refused to fight back when beaten by the angry crowds.

 

The violence against unarmed young people exposed the inanity of racist laws and made the white establishment feel ashamed.

 

The disarming power of nonviolent discipline, inspired by King and other teachers, was literally disarming.

 

Segregation collapsed.

 

This happened in Nashville in the early 1960s, and those memories and images of (usually) peaceful resolution shaped the city's modern self-identity.

 

Nonviolence was seen as pragmatic. The experience made Music City a less hateful place.

 

Killings define 2008

 

Today, Americans are dying because of a dire lack of local memories of peacemaking. A series of shooting slaughters — the Northern Illinois campus, a Louisiana vo-tech, the Kirkwood, Mo., city hall, and a dozen other places — is defining year 2008.

 

We comfort ourselves to say they're all unrelated. Yet they add up to something obvious, a pattern of national self-terrorism, the default fall-back option to use weapons instead of words to make one's miserable, tormented point.

 

King is enshrined in national memory now, our first official hero of nonviolence, so the chance exists that his words, not his killer's response, will come to inhabit more and more people.

 

Columnist Ray Waddle, a former Tennessean religion editor who now lives in Connecticut, can be reached at ray@raywaddle.com.