Bloodshed, and an American Hero
April 6, 2002
By Patricia Heartland
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
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
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.