Rising in the power of nonviolence
It is during moments in our society like now, that we must remember the wisdom passed down to us by those who came before. I call to mind the now immortal words of Maya Angelou's poem, Still I Rise.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
It is easy to forget that the battles fought today, are not new. The struggles and victories of a generation past, are not lost. And the lessons that we’ve learned through blood and sacrifice still apply.
Those of you who know me personally, may know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a powerful inspiration in my life. What made him so successful in his mission, was that he sought to fix the root of the problem in our society and not the symptoms. He sought to fight the hate in people, but not the people. He based his mission on the framework of nonviolent social change.
Principles of nonviolence:
PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people.
PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform.
PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
Taking these principles, these fundamental tenants of how to affect change in a world that wishes to remain the same, we must focus our energy on enacting social change. Dr. King took nonviolence and created a powerful framework for changing the world.
Nonviolent social change:
INFORMATION GATHERING: To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent's position.
EDUCATION: It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
PERSONAL COMMITMENT: Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION: Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
DIRECT ACTION: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a "creative tension" into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
RECONCILIATION: Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the 'Beloved Community.'
It's easy to think that now, more than ever, our society is crumbling all around us. But it isn't. We are closer now to the goal of a ‘Beloved Community’ then we have ever been in human history. Throughout American history, we have survived as a country through the worst of things. There are people who do indeed wish for it all to burn, people who suffer from the sickness of hate, the disease of bigotry. There are those who are victims to the same cancer of evil that they seek to spread.
These people are not our enemy.
What they stand for is our enemy. We must never forget that. Injustice anywhere and everywhere, is our enemy. We must fight the injustice, the thought of it, the principle of it. We must work with those who tolerate injustice, those who proliferate injustice, to end it.
The civil rights icons of the previous generation are fading. Few remain among us today. The reins have been passed on to the next generation, to us. We must rise as we have for generations. We must rise and live our lives in the light. Remember, hate cannot be fought with hate. Only love can overcome it. And darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. When you're on the front lines, keep this in mind:
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
I will do my part to live the principles of nonviolence for social change that Dr. King preached. Will you join me?
For more information on the principles of nonviolence that Dr. King lived, please check out: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy