BENNETT: Non-Violence Worked For Revered Trio


Non-Violence Worked

For Revered Trio

Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

Does anyone remember how Mahatma Gandhi changed the world? How a slight Indian man, a lawyer who never carried a weapon, defeated the strongest empire in the world and rewrote the future of billions of people?

Does anyone remember how Martin Luther King changed the world? How a Black Southern Baptist preacher, a man who never carried a weapon, changed two centuries of oppression of Black Americans and opened new doors for millions of them?

Does anyone remember how Desmond Tutu changed the world? How a Black South African Anglican cleric and theologian, a man who never carried a weapon, changed 50 years of apar-theid, segregation and white-minority rule, and opened the way for majority rule and an end to separation?

None of these leaders saw all their dreams realized – in some cases the dreams veered astray but they changed history forever and did it through non-violent means. Driven by their religious beliefs, their beliefs in the humanity of all, and by their own consciences, they made the world a better place for all people, not just for their own.

These leaders were people who had plenty of human failings and who made plenty of mistakes. Yet they kept working for decades to bring their vision to an all-too-frequently blind world.

They were often opposed by their own people who thought them either too conservative or too radical.

They were opposed by their national power structures who always believed them too radical. Their lives were in constant jeopardy and their futures were never assured, and both Gandhi and King were assassinated.

Even in the midst of mortal fear they carried on. They believed so deeply that they risked everything to seek justice for all people. They knew well they could die violent deaths yet the decried the use of violence. They offered self-sacrifice we seldom see. They moved other people to follow them, they converted enemies, they offered their everything, and in Dr. King’s words they “bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice” for the entire world.

Today, justice is certainly not complete for Black Americans, Native Americans, and many immigrants; nor for the poor of all Americans, regardless of color. As a nation we have come a huge distance from my childhood in the 1950s, but we are nowhere near where we should be.

In the face of injustice, demands for justice are always to be expected. Injustices visited on so many Americans by our white culture are obvious everywhere. The demands for justice need to be heard, acknowledged, and addressed.

Today we see little willingness for self-sacrifice, or even a willingness to honestly discuss the core morality of our nation. If we are not willing to be selfless, and if we are not willing to openly confront
our nation’s historic demons, we fail both as a nation and as a people.

I hope and believe there are enough Americans of good faith to confront the demons. But I don’t expect our politicians, of any stripe, to lead the confrontation.

In our times few politicians really lead; they mostly react to their loudest or wealthiest constituents. The real leadership needs to be individual, then come together at local levels, and then move up the ladder to lead the politicians.

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