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Dear World
Bloodshed, and an American Hero

April 6, 2002
By Patricia Heartland

April 4, 2002

Dear World,

I won't ask how things are going with you. Our front pages are ankle-deep in blood. Muslim mobs killing Hindus, Hindu mobs killing Muslims… Kashmir, Pakistan, Indonesia, Colombia…

There must be a lot of oppressed people out there. I'd like to be a good neighbor, but I don't know what that means. Leaving you alone to exterminate each other in… well, I can't say 'peace,' can I? Or picking a side and helping it to exterminate the other side? Or muscling in like a mob enforcer and giving you something to hate even worse than each other?

It's just not a very good range of choices. I've spent a lot of time thinking about it, believe me. It's not at all comfortable to watch you all blowing each other up, burning each other, shooting each other, etc. It's not at all pleasant seeing funerals with tiny coffins, burnt-out schools, people lying bleeding to death in rubble-filled streets. And it's even harder when I feel as though anything my country could do will make things worse.

So, like I said, I've thought and thought about it. Fortunately, I looked at the calendar today, April 4th. And here in America, we're remembering a great hero on this day. A hero who just might offer some hope for you all.

The guy I'm talking about is Martin Luther King. I'm sure many of you have heard of him. He certainly wasn't the only or the first hero to reveal the secret of how the weak can win against a vastly stronger opponent. April 4th was the day he was killed for doing just that- showing how to turn an enemy's strength against them and make them use it to defeat themselves.

Doctor King said:

"Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press on for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the weapon of love. Let no man pull you so low as to hate him. Always avoid violence. If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in your struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos."

Doctor King was much more than an idealist. He was a leader who brought together the passion, the people, and the strategies that changed a whole country, re-wrote laws, and began the process of re-shaping a culture. He was a pragmatist, and a shrewd strategic thinker. He chose non-violence not because it was "nice," but because he knew it could work. He understood the power of the lever. He said:

"Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word tension. I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth.

…So the purpose of the direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation."

Dr. King knew and understood the dynamics of the media, of popular culture, of political will, of public opinion. And he knew that nonviolence does not mean a bloodless struggle or a painless transformation. You want to be martyrs for your faith? Hold a sit-in on the site of that mosque or temple that your opponents destroyed. Make sure there are hundreds, even thousands of you. Make sure the cameras of the world's media are there to witness. Make sure you have an intelligent, articulate speaker or two ready to state your case.

Then be prepared for the tear gas, the rubber bullets, the injury and the arrest and the jail. There is your martyrdom. Endure. Let them do their worst. Let them do their worst, while you decline to raise a single hand in hatred or anger against them in retaliation. Then do it again, at another place. Another time. Peaceful, unarmed marches. Train yourselves to sink to the ground under their blows without returning them. To be dragged to the backs of the trucks and beaten, without fighting back. Some will be hurt. Some will die. But how many are dying now? And what is it getting you?

Oh, for the sake of whatever heaven or god or higher power you might believe in, neighbors! Think!! Think strategically! What does force generate? More force! What does hate generate? More hate! Do you want force, do you want hate? Or do you want your children to have a place to call home, a chance at education and a decent life among neighbors who don't want them dead every minute of every day?

A lot of my fellow Americans are criticizing Mr. Bush right now for not "doing something" to make you all stop exterminating each other. I'm not exactly fond of Mr. Bush and I have a long list of things I think he could improve, myself. But I have to admit to a certain amount of sympathy for him and the foreign policy people on his staff right now, because I can't honestly think of one, single thing that America could constructively do to keep you from killing each other, except give you a bunch of American or UN occupiers to hate and kill instead.

And while I don't think Mr. Bush is the brightest bulb in the chandelier, it doesn't take a nuclear genius to figure out that's not much of a solution.

Please think about it, World. I'm just getting to know you, and I'd like it to be a long and interesting relationship.

Your friend,
Patricia Hartland
American Citizen

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