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Thu Jul 23, 2020, 09:56 AM

Internal vs External Struggles

"Men who fear to make the sacrifice of love will have to fight." --Toyohiko Kagawa


I was pleased to see, before I answered the telephone, the "caller ID." It was my oldest friend, a man I've known since we were three years old, who was my neighbor growing up. As soon as I answered, he put us on "speaker" so that his long-time girl friend -- who was one of our classmates in school -- could participate in the conversation. They were both outraged by the actions of the federal troops in Portland.

Both view this -- and Trump's threat to expand the military occupation of American cities -- in the starkest of terms. As a former Marine, he knows that the military is not supposed to be used against US citizens exercising their Amendment 1 rights. She viewed it as an invitation for militia groups to start kidnapping citizens, similar to the plans of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) when Nixon was running for re-election in 1972.

"There's a fuck-load of guys like me who won't stand for this," he said. "We didn't serve our country to have a jackass like Trump abuse the military to become a fucking dictator." She, having a much more gentle nature, said that our generation needed to be on the front lines, peacefully accepting the consequences. "I mean, we are old ....what are they going to do? Kill all of us? There are a lot of us willing to sacrifice what few years we have left to protect our country."

Her words reminded me of something I had read long ago, the above quote by Kagawa. It was in the beginning of Thomas Merton's book "Gandhi on Non-Violence," published more than 50 years ago. At the time that I first read it, I was not familiar with the Japanese pacifist and labour activist. In the years since learning of his works, he has been one of the people who has influenced my thinking on non-violence.

Usually, however, when the social dynamics are spinning out of control, I am more likely to turn to the teachings of Gandhi and King. I fully recognize that in the context of the essence of being, I am at most a tiny acorn compared to their giant oak trees. I benefit from reading the books by and about them -- sometimes more than others.

When NYS was dealing with hydrofracking a decade or so ago, a republican state senator refused to even speak to the environmental community. One evening, before I was to speak to a church group, I noticed several frames of newspaper articles on the wall, documenting when as a young minister, Dr. King had spoken there. This led me to begin a huntger strike to pressure that senator to meet with us. It wasn't pleasant, but it worked. (Within a year, the senator was convicted on felony counts, along with his son.)

Yet today, rather than being older and wiser, I find myself being older and much more tired. Two days ago, I had another series of medical tests, with the results coming back yesterday. And now I've got a new prescription, that hopefully works. Watching the news, I am troubled by the goon squads in Portland, and apparently headed to Chicago. I turn the television off, and open my favorite book of King's speeches and writings.

I know that King advocated loving your enemies. I appreciate his explanation of this by way of using three of the six Greek words for "love" -- Eros, or passionate love, Philia, or deep friendship, and Agape, or love of humankind. King was advocating agape, of course, in his instruction to love your enemies. He wasn't advocating friendship or romance with the Bull Connors of society.

I try -- at least most of the time -- to be honest with myself. And right now, I do not feel any sense of love for the federal troops who are violating the rights of citizens as defined by the Constitution -- or for Trump and his administration. I can honestly say that I do not hate them. I feel nothing, which may or may not be worse. It's more like if I see a rabid dog, I neither love nor hate it. Instead, I focus on the danger it poses.

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