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America'S Simple Choice

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Autor:  anton  02 March 2011
Tags:  Americas,  Simple,  Choice
Words: 1941   |   Pages: 8
Views: 166

America’s Simple Choice

As a whole, the United States has never exemplified nonviolent resistance. The history of the United States is cluttered with stories of war and the pride America has in its soldiers. However, a system promoting peace and nonviolence would be a more truth-based course to achieving results. In the United States’ present situation with the “War on Terrorism,” it is difficult to imagine a practical application of nonviolence in America because such a policy has never been followed. However, one such case could be one involving the rights of oppressed peoples. The benefits of this solution largely outweigh those of any solution on a more military level. Because America’s history is strongly rooted in war and violence, it makes it difficult to break away and to convince the nation that while we may win wars, the evil still exists. Civil problems that exist in the United States would be best solved by nonviolent resistance. Violence creates more problems while nonviolence exploits the truth. Three examples of successes in effecting change in civil problems through nonviolence are those of Gandhi, King, and Chбvez.

Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Cйsar Chбvez were three people who not only believed in nonviolent resistance but also found ways to make it happen in their own societies, as well as others. All three men were profoundly religious and were influenced by their Hindu, Lutheran, and Catholic beliefs. Gandhi, King, and Chбvez emphasized many sacrifices that had to be made on the individual’s part in order for nonviolent resistance to prevail. The willingness to suffer was considered a very large commitment to nonviolence, and this principle demonstrated their similar approaches to what is just. The willingness to suffer and sacrifice for truth is a concept that Gandhi and King especially fought for and dedicated their lives to. Without this, their quest to do what is right and true would be compromised.

While Gandhi dedicated his life to freeing the oppressed, particularly Indians, from British rule and imperialism, he was more concerned with freeing society from the monopoly created by our culture of violence. After deciding to change his lifestyle from a wealthy lawyer to an individual who restricted his wants and needs, Gandhi began his crusade for peace. Gandhi did not believe that war and violence were innate qualities that every human being possessed, but rather they indicated a tendency towards cowardice. As violence is seen as the cowardly path, nonviolence is seen as the truth-driven course taken. Seeing himself as an active part of an experiment with truth, Gandhi’s emphasis on truth is apparent (Holmes 66). This truth-centered idea was the foundation for Gandhi’s crusade for nonviolent resistance.

Gandhi developed a form of passive resistance that he termed Satyagraha. “A Satyagrahi obeys the laws of society intelligently and of his own free will, because he considers it to be his sacred duty to do so” (Gandhi 77). A Satyagrahi must obey the laws of society meticulously because only then is he qualified to judge which particular laws are good and righteous and which are unjust and iniquitous. Satyagraha is not a physical force and never inflicts pain on the opponent. In fact, there is no ill-will whatsoever. Because truth itself is the very core of the soul and Satyagraha is pure soul-force, the soul is informed with knowledge and truth and thus burns a flame of love (Gandhi 78). A Satyagrahi never gives up on what he thinks is truth and relies entirely on himself. A Satyagrahi is not repressed by tyranny or force, and does not strike back at anyone. “Just as anyone can resort to Satyagraha, it can be resorted to in almost any situation” (Gandhi 79). Gandhi demonstrated his belief in the Satyagraha system in all of his actions. After being beaten by a police officer outside the president’s house, Gandhi declined the chance to press charges because he did not believe in going to court in respect to personal grievances. Gandhi was also arrested in 1907 for failing to submit his fingerprints for the Black Act. These acts of nonviolent resistance put Satyagraha to practical and noble use.

Gandhi was able to put his nonviolent concepts to use successfully on many occasions. One of his greatest successes in civil rights is the Salt March. Gandhi defied the government in one simple act: picking up a handful of salt. British law began taxing Indian-made salt, and this began a monopoly on salt production to the government. Because this was a seemingly blatant travesty on Indians’ civil rights, Gandhi began his Salt March. Hundreds of people followed, acknowledging that the English were oppressing them by limiting their use of their own natural resource. “The same day that Gandhi broke the salt laws, throughout India at least five million people at over 5,000 meetings, followed Gandhi’s example” (Rasheed 3). This kind of following would never be achieved by violence. Nonviolence is what incenses people to join together to try and create a better tomorrow.

Martin Luther King Jr. is already one concrete example of why nonviolence would greatly benefit the United States. King’s approach to nonviolence led him to further explore societal philosophies. He discovered that it was acknowledgement of worth and dignity of the individual, the freedom, and the spiritual values that were permitted to flourish that King saw as symbols of the truth that developed from capitalism (Holmes, 68). King cited five principal points in addition to the willingness to suffer in the commitment to nonviolence. First, he acknowledged Gandhi’s view that nonviolence is the not the path of the cowardly. The very opposite was believed to be true. True commitment to nonviolence requires discipline, courage, and self-control. Second, nonviolence is not looking for revenge or defeat of an opponent, but rather reconciliation and friendship. Defeat of the opponent can merely be seen as a byproduct of the real goal. Third, King makes it clear that the true enemy is not the oppressors but evil itself. Those under the influence of evil are not the foe; evil itself is the ultimate enemy. Fourth, as Gandhi believed, all modes of violence must be completely avoided. This includes any physical, psychological, and emotional violence. Finally, in order to fully be committed to nonviolence, one must believe that the world is on the side of justice and have faith in the future (Holmes 68). King believed firmly that the ends cannot justify the means if the means of achieving the end goal of peace and freedom are rooted in evil.

One major aim of both Gandhi and King was to change the state through individuals’ efforts. They believed that the work of an individual can influence others to join the effort and thus affect a broader spectrum of people. In order for this chain of events to even work, certain circumstances must be met. First and foremost, the individual must firmly believe in the cause they are supporting. Change would be severely handicapped if the individuals advocating for it did so half-heartedly. Individuals must also make their voices heard. In order for a state to be infiltrated and transformed, those participating must realize that unless others are aware of their actions and cause, nothing will change the state. Voices must be actively heard, and those making themselves heard must be willing to take full repercussions for their actions. This strengthens the point that nonviolent resistance is not for the faint-hearted; only those willing to take risks and condemn cowardice will prove to be true to the cause. Those individuals who seek peace and desire justice in a world that appears to find war and violence the usual answer need to realize that nothing will change without a fight. It is the nature of the fight, however, that divides the brave and courageous from the cowardly and weak. Violence begets violence, while nonviolence breeds trust, truth, and peace.

A group that exists today that should utilize nonviolent resistance in America is the migrant workers who work in fields and on farms. These workers work in conditions that the average office worker can scarcely imagine. Water is often scarce, pay is below the living wage, and the treatment of the workers themselves is intolerable. These workers could achieve improving these things if they took a nonviolent yet firm stance. One example of this is Cйsar Chбvez and his approach to nonviolence. Chбvez followed a principle of nonviolence. This gained him the support of other leaders in the American civil rights movement, including church groups and African-American civil rights groups that were employing the same nonviolent strategy. When Chбvez was asked to help the Filipino-American workers who had been evicted from their labor camps after picketing Delano grape growers, he agreed and helped to set up a nonviolent protest. “Picketers faced violence from unsympathetic police and thugs hired by growers, as well as workers called scabs or strikebreakers, who were willing to work despite the strike” (West 1). Because Chбvez was able to bring about a peaceful protest and inspire thousands of others to participate in a nationwide boycott, most Delano farmers were forced to reform their workers’ labor conditions and incorporate the United Farm Workers of America (a union founded by Chбvez) into their contracts.

Meeting all these circumstances, however, does not guarantee peace, justice, and truth in today’s world. It is not enough to simply declare oneself nonviolent and expect the ranks to follow. Society does not usually follow talk. I can declare myself as nonviolent as I want, but no one will see and understand my point unless I make them see and understand. Those who speak their mind must be prepared to be challenged. Therefore, individuals declaring themselves nonviolent resisters must be prepared to prove themselves over and over again. Until one can do that, declaring one’s self nonviolent is not enough. Empty words are never enough; people learn by actions and read what those actions say. This is why being ready and open to the need to sacrifice and suffer is so important to quest for truth and justice in today’s world and the act of nonviolence itself. If an individual is ready and willing to suffer for truth, larger groups of people follow. They are inspired and realize that peace, justice, and truth are attainable in the United States through nonviolent resistance.

Word Count: 1859

Works cited

Gandhi, Arun. “Nonviolence – The Only Hope.” 20 November 2005. .

Gandhi, Mohandas K. “On Satyagraha.” Nonviolence in Theory and Practice. Ed.

Robert L. Holmes. Illinois: Waveland Press, 2005. 77-84.

Holmes, Robert L. Nonviolence in Theory and Practice. Illinois: Waveland Press, 2005.

King, Martin Luther Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Nonviolence in Theory and

Practice. Ed. Robert L. Holmes. Illinois: Waveland Press, 2005. 101-113.

Rasheed, Ali. “Mahatma Gandhi, Civil Disobedience, and the Salt March.” 3 November

2005. Minivan News. 20 November 2005. < http://www.minivannews.com/ news/ news.php?id=1408>.

West, Michelle. “Cйsar Chбvez: Migrant Farm Worker to Movement Leader UT Will

Erect a Statue of the Mexican-American Leader Near the West Mall.” 22

November 2005. The Daily Texan. 22 November 2005. .



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