To fight for Freedom, pilule Justice, order or even Love seems perfectly sensible, medicine but to fight for Peace seems a bit oxymoronic. Peace is the absence of conflict. When one speaks of peace, there is an expectation that the very nature of peace means freedom from war. Peace is tranquility or a state of calm and serenity. The late great comedian and social commentator, George Carlin once said, “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” A crass comment, I know, but it states the point quite clearly.
The natural human reaction or reflex is to respond in like kind to the level of violence or aggression that is inflicted in order to vanquish the so-called enemy by brute force. The cycle of violence is fed by this classic norm. However, the more successful or significant models of diffusing conflict and violent situations have been to apply tactics that are in direct opposition to engaging violent activity blow for blow. The leadership of the struggle for equality, justice, and freedom – at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. -employed non-violent civil disobedience and non-violent protests to engage the violent aggression of both law enforcement and localized self-appointed militia or hate groups. Many people laid their bodies on the front lines of the struggle to accomplish the larger goals for the greater good of their community. Non-violence, as a tactic of the movement, was attributed to the massive non-violent resistance employed by Mahatma Gandhi against British colonization of India and the Indian people. Dr. King was indeed greatly influenced by Gandhi; however, one can look at the teachings of the Bible to see similarities of both movements attributed to the “golden rule”: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. This is a difficult challenge to embrace when others do not ascribe to the same. It is even more difficult to “turn the other cheek” – as the teachings of Jesus Christ suggests – when others “hate you and despitefully use you” and/or perpetrate all manner of violence against you. To respond in a directly opposite manner takes a tremendous amount of character, conviction, resolve and most importantly courage. It takes remarkable courage to stand against violence by using non-violence, diplomacy, and human interaction.
In order to get a different outcome, you have to be willing to do something different. The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri this past week since the killing of un-armed 18 year-old Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a municipal police officer over a week ago, is a case of history repeating itself. The ineptitude, insensitivity, and outright disrespectful manner in which the public officials and elected leaders have thus far handled the shooting of Brown in broad daylight in front of a community of witnesses, and the delay in the release of a documented accounting of the incident, create the optics of an apparent cover-up, or at least a lack of transparent disclosure, exacerbating an explosion of on-going racial tensions and the recognition that the wounds of America’s historic legacy of racial injustice and disparity are long from being resolved.
If we want a different outcome, we will have to DO something different. Courageous Leadership means stepping across enemy lines without treating those on the other side as the ENEMY. #IsraelvPalestine #BlackvWhite #PolicevCommunity
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: Change the Narrative: Strategies to Overcome