Fight Fire With Water: A Life Of Nonviolence

-By Kurt Dugger-candle-1042087_1920

So let’s say November has rolled around again, and now it’s Election Day. You get off work and drive down to your local voting establishment, wait in a short line. Finally it’s your turn to approach the volunteers handing out voting forms. Then you get a surprise. The volunteer pulls up a Mason jar filled with marbles. She then informs you that anyone with green eyes (that’s you) is required to accurately guess the number of marbles in the jar before being allowed to cast their ballot. The sheriff is on hand to make sure procedure is followed. What do you do?

What happens later when threats are openly made against your children because they inherited your eyes? Most of us would try to protect them I think. Maybe by applying for a firearms carry permit? Denied. State law has given the Sheriff the power to deny this permit to anyone, and he knows better than to trust those “greenies”.

It would take an amazingly strong man to not lose his self-control in these situations. And courage on par with our toughest warriors to fight back against this abuse in any meaningful way. The two easiest approaches would be to cower at home, tell yourself to be patient, and wait for it to change. Even less effective, he could allow that anger to turn to violence.

Luckily for all of us a man with the strength and intelligence to fight this battle correctly just happened to be alive at the exact time he was needed most. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family and friends suffered these abuses and much worse at times because they inherited a genetic trait from their parents. How foolish do we look when we judge men for things they can’t control?

Instead of allowing these things to fester into rage, King chose to work against the evil men and

mlk-gandhi-picture
Martin Luther King, JR. beside a photo of Gandhi. ©Bob Fitch

women who created them. Instead of attacking and dividing people into groups, he used every opportunity to bring people together. Rich, poor, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist—he brought together every person from every race, country, different language and background he could find. Then he required them to do the impossible. He required anyone marching with him or invoking his movement to sign a non-violence pledge and to live by it.

That means, if you are struck, you stand your ground, but you don’t strike back. If your enemies attack you with words, you ignore them. If they threaten you personally, don’t strike first. I don’t think I have that kind of strength. But I think we need it today, just as we did then.

When you see authority abusing its power, and you try to use force against them, you will lose almost every time. They have more experience using violence than you do. They are also better armed, trained, supplied, and organized. They have the power of law behind them. Whether it’s right or wrong, it allows them to call you criminals as they feed their story to reporters, in the process obscuring the real problem.

pettus bridge
The Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama was the site of the Bloody Sunday events March 7, 1965.

However, the State doesn’t know how to handle peace. When it’s used against them they tend to show what they truly are. One example of this was Selma Alabama. Roughly 600 gathered to march from Selma to Montgomery in March of 1965. The purpose was to ask the governor to protect their voting rights. As the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge at the edge of town, they were attacked. State Troopers ordered the marchers to turn back. When they wordlessly held their ground, the troopers waded into them. Using clubs, gas, and men on horseback, the marchers were beaten and driven back across the bridge into the town of Selma. The only thing that stopped the troopers was a man named Wilson Baker who led the Selma city police to stop the State Troopers. Over fifty marchers were sent to the hospital. Thanks to a few reporters and brave cameramen, images of troopers beating unarmed men and women went around the world.

The marchers could have easily rioted and burned Selma. Some would have said it was justified. But they didn’t. They tended their wounded and planned the next peaceful march. In the meantime, because they chose peace, people from everywhere rallied to their cause. On March 25, instead of the original 600, thousands walked into the state capitol together to demand action. They, along with thousands of others, finally won their fight in August of that year.

The only thing I’ve seen to compare to this was at Kiwanis Park in Union City several years ago. A rally was held to protest Congressman John Tanner signing on to the healthcare bill. To stop the rally, a child trapped in a man’s body tried to start a fight as the key speaker rose to talk. Several men quickly surrounded him, turning their backs to him until he finished his tantrum. He gave up and walked to his car, followed by the crowd’s laughter. If any of us had done what we all wanted to do to this man, the fight is the only thing we would have remembered from that day. As it happened, the bill got signed anyway, and Mr. Tanner had to find employment elsewhere. Some people say you must fight fire with fire. But—it’s important to remember that firefighters use water.