Tomorrow is the day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
Nonviolence is one of the key legacies of Dr. King. It’s nobility and efficacy evident by the success of the civil rights movement in transforming a nation. Non violence, King wrote, is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.”. Both “morally and practically: committed to nonviolence, King believed that “the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.” And this thought challenges me to the core.
And I think it is time to consider whether or not violence is ever the answer… I train in martial arts, not really as self defense, but as something to do to improve on my inherent dorkiness. And we talk about it only being for defense of my life, my family or my country. But it is still it is about martial… about war… about effective fighting. And we, as a country have a military budget in the $700 billion range… along with another $20 billion for security and $7 billion to take care of yesterday’s soldiers. We also privately own almost as many handguns, rifles, and shotguns as there are people in this country. And we use them with shocking regularity… And we like violent entertainment. Stories where the hero excels at fighting, at swordplay, at gun play… where the conflict become physical and the hero prevails.
So in a lot of ways I don’t think we really believe in non-violence.
I watched a fight video in which an alleged victim of merciless bullying involving a larger girl who taunted the smaller girl over her dead sister. The smaller girl got the bully on the ground, and straddling her, broke her nose in a fairly sustained and efficient ground and pound, and then even after the bully apparently surrendered, she pulled her hair and relentless hit and kicked her… as she sat bleeding, crying, and screaming on the ground… And as much as I abhor violence, there was something satisfying about the underdog winning in what seems a righteous cause… and something horrible about seeing the actual fruits of violence… and knowing that somehow that this confrontation could be all for naught, solving nothing, and only the start of a cycle of violence.
As the Alan Turing character says in The Imitation Game “Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction and the act becomes hollow.”
It is a challenge to embrace true non violence… to believe that he who lives by the sword will also die by the sword… to turn the other cheek and to return good for evil. To truly love your enemies may be among the greatest human challenge. To believe that love is not only the right way, but in the longer run, the most effective tactic and best strategy? That I believe it is an even bigger challenge.
With King gone these many years, it is what we are left with.