Nonviolence is the only weapon that works
Charlottesville is only the beginning of what will be a wider movement by white supremacists to have their say. Resisting the new Nazis is important, but tied to a larger need to resist the Trump administration’s attempts to deny health care to the poor and middle class; to widen economic, racial, and gender inequality; to worsen climate change; and if necessary, to use war to gain profit and political advantage.
The ironic thing is that many white nationalists are among those hit hardest by Republican policies. While the extremists get our attention, they’re a small group with limited support. Congress, the White House, and their corporate allies have far more power to do harm than alt-right terrorists. Racism isn’t the only reason for racial conflict; some people are making a profit from keeping Americans divided.
Liberals who want to resist them have to be careful. We look stupid and childish when we lump everyone we oppose into one group. Republicans are not Nazis. (Actual Nazis are.) And many white folks who are angry right now are just hurting. The only way for liberals to win is by offering empathy and love in return for hate.
I sometimes wish it weren’t so. It’s hard to love some of those bastards, but the fact is, love works. Remember, you don’t have to like them, just love them. Often the best way to love someone is to take away their power to do harmful things.
Resisting those forces can only be done with nonviolence, because nonviolence is the most powerful weapon. No stable democracy in the last 70 years has been created by any other method than nonviolent revolution. As India celebrates its 70th year of independence, we should remember that.
Pakistan won its independence in that same revolution but has never been a stable democracy. Why? That may be a complicated answer, but here’s a clue: only India’s constitution begins with “We the People.”
When Gandhi invented and refined the techniques of modern NVR (nonviolent resistance), the science was still in its infancy. It was at the stage nuclear weapon science was at, just after the first splitting of the atom here in Chicago. By the mid-1940s, both nuclear and nonviolent weapons proved their world-changing power. The methods in both sciences have grown much more sophisticated in the years since then.
However, most of us still are taught old myths about nonviolence. These are all false:
- “Nonviolence can only work against ‘nice’ oppressors. It could never have worked against Hitler.” It did in Denmark and elsewhere.
- “I don’t want to be nice and hold hands and love my oppressors. I want to fight.” Taking away people’s empires is not nice. Nonviolence is just a better way of fighting.
- “You can’t use nonviolence against a bullet.” Not literally, no. But bullets are fired by human beings, who can be forced to stop.
- “You can’t make evil people have a change of heart and become peaceful and loving.” No, but you can make them powerless to act on their evil.
Because we don’t believe the facts, the overwhelming proof that nonviolence works better, we still try to use bombs and guns to change hearts and minds.
I believe this century is poised to become the era when human beings transform from seeing the enemy as the other—another race, religion, culture, gender, another way of living or loving—to realizing that the true enemy, the only enemy we’ve ever had, is violence itself.
I’ll post more on this, but this talk from Srdja Popovic, one of the leaders of the nonviolent Otpor! movement that overthrew Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, covers the key points. He knows what he’s talking about, since he used it to end a dictatorship and, more importantly, ensure that it was followed by a stable democracy.