After participating in last month’s Pacific Life Community demos in Las Vegas, Lorin Peters spent some time in reflection and wrote the following essay from what he likes to think of as his “Gandhian” point of view.
Lorin has been a long time participant in Pacific Life Community. He has taught Gandhian nonviolence (and high school physics) 1972-present in a Catholic HS in Oakland, Ca, served in Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams the summers of 2002-2009, and in Thailand with the Asian Muslim Action Network the springs of 2011-present.
Opening Warrior Eyes
Lacksana and I are on our annual retreat at my brother’s place in Eagle, Idaho, reading by the fire, and reflecting and writing. OK, we are recreating a little, too – Lack downhills, I telemark. The two swans on my brother’s pond occasionally chase and harass certain of the geese. When they have successfully driven a goose away, they celebrate – flapping their wings powerfully, and “standing” on the water, then bobbing their heads up and down in unison. My brother’s wife calls it their “we bad” act.
Some of my thoughts here have been about our Pacific Life Community demonstrations. At some risk of coming across as a “we bad” actor, I would like to share some of my reflections.
Father Louie says, “If a house is on fire, we are obligated to try to rescue the people inside.” Dorothy Day says, “Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”
From a Gandhian point of view, the objective of an obstructive action or resistance is to “open eyes” and hearts and minds. Including our own (assuming we already have the whole truth is the fundamentalist error.)
I believe that ‘one-person demos’ are more helpful than larger demonstrations. People recognize the courage it takes to stand alone, especially when opposing the state. Fifty people can demonstrate in 50 different places. A single demonstrator is approachable for a discussion or debate – a mass of demonstrators are intimidating. Marketing studies suggest that when people see the same message in three different places, they begin to remember and/ or consider the message (Jay Adkisson).
So I would encourage us to stand alone, or in pairs if you feel you need support. Space ourselves along a road or highway so drivers have maybe 10 seconds to read and react to each message. On a 60 miles-per-hour highway, 10 seconds is about 300 yards apart.
If a pedestrian passes, offer a friendly greeting. If anyone engages in dialogue, ask them what they think or believe, then listen. If we must speak, speak to their concerns.
For those who ‘cross the line,’ we might cross in small enough groups that each resister is engaged by a separate officer, for one-on-one conversations. In other words, don’t cross in groups that prevent individual interactions (unless you need the security of a partner). Then see if the officer is willing to engage in dialogue, eg, “What do you think about ….?” “What do you believe about …?” Then listen. Again, if we must speak, speak to their concerns, not ours.
Consider educating and preparing ourselves for dialogue with our opponents. Some time before a demonstration, write down the pro-war arguments we might expect. Then prepare specific responses to each argument. Historic examples and stories generally are more helpful – people can remember stories better, and people know they are true.
This is also a good discipline before writing or selecting our message posters. Our messages need to address people where they’re at, not where we’re at. So I have spent several hours this week thinking about what Americans believe, and then brainstorming about what they need to hear.
Americans who believe “violence is necessary” perhaps need to hear:
“Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” – Jesus
Canada won independence without a war
Denmark stopped Hitler without violence
Those who believe “violence is redemptive” may need to hear:
“He who conquers 10,000 others only makes 10,000 enemies” – Buddha
160 million died in the 20thcentury wars – Is the world safe yet?
Sending our ‘boys’ into other countries makes friends, or enemies?
Those who believe “our military makes us secure” probably need to hear:
What is the Dept of Defense defending in 130 other countries?
Is our military for securing us, or our empire?
Is it “Dept of Defense”, or still “Dept of War”?
Those who believe in “peace through strength” might need to hear:
Do we trust Canada? Why?
Lasting peace comes from positive relationships
Strength creates fear and enemies
Those who believe in “keeping the peace” perhaps need to hear:
British bobbies carry no guns – what’s wrong with US?
What comes from the barrel of a gun – peace, or more war?
Are you keeping the peace, or an empire?
Those who believe in “enforcing the law” may need to hear:
Is the law about control, or truth and justice?
Which is better – punishment, or restitution and healing?
Can we arrest conscience – Can we imprison truth?
Those who believe “America is a democracy” probably need to hear:
Many Americans are not Republican or Democrat – who represents us?
If 51% gets into office, and 49% gets nothing, are the 49% represented?
Why do the rich now spend a billion dollars on each election cycle?
What happens to politicians who do not serve money?
Does Congress represent people, or money?
Those who believe we need ‘nukes’ to deter ‘rogue’ nations might need to hear:
What makes a nation ‘rogue’?
– violating international laws?
– threatening other nations?
– invading other nations?
– possessing nuclear weapons?
Does this ‘rogue’ shoe fit US?
“Judge a tree by its fruit” – Jesus
Those who believe warriors are courageous perhaps need to hear:
Nonviolent warriors are courageous – they “glory in fighting alone” – Gandhi
Those who believe warriors are disciplined may need to hear:
Nonviolent warriors are disciplined – they listen to their enemies
Those who believe warriors are strong probably need to hear:
Nonviolent warriors are strong enough to “love their enemies” – Jesus
Well, these are some of my thoughts and suggestions. I pray they stimulate some of your thoughts and discussions.