by Paul Goodnature
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 . . .. Retuning violence for violence
multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
As members of Paths to Peace in Freeborn County, we heartily accept King’s statement that violence only begets more violence. Our mission statement calls us to promote peaceful living among citizens of all ages in Freeborn County, and our guiding principle commits us to providing resources and support for developing peace in individual and community life.
Our “community” life, while focused on Freeborn County, extends beyond the boundaries of the county. We emphasize the importance of peace education and believe that nonviolence is an effective method for resolving personal and public conflicts. We also believe that peaceful tactics are not emphasized in our society because they are not considered effective and that children must be taught peace or they will learn violence.
This year we are celebrating peacemakers as part of our focus on peace education. We know that leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Henry David Thoreau, and Dorothy Day have brought about major political and social changes through direct, nonviolent action. In more recent times we have also seen the power of nonviolent change in Lech Walesa’s Poland and Vaclav Havel’s “velvet revolution” in the Czech Republic. In both countries, massive nonviolent resistance against the ruling communists led to their overthrow.
We look to these models and believe that nonviolence is not only an ideal approach to solving conflicts but also a practical one. We also know that nonviolence is a relatively new tactic when compared with the methods of violence; we also believe that the methods of nonviolence will improve with time and become even more effective. And, as part of our celebration of peacemakers and peacemaking, we find it incompatible to teach peace and nonviolence without taking a stand against war as a method of solving conflicts in the larger community of our world. We believe that other, more humane and ethical approaches must be explored and practiced. We also believe that we cannot teach children about resolving conflicts in school through peer mediation without teaching them about alternatives to war.
In terms of the current Iraqi war, we stand opposed because of the values expressed in our mission statement and guiding principles. Moreover, we stand opposed because of the deception that led to our involvement in the war. These “reasons” have been covered frequently in the media and show that other options were not explored or even considered. In addition, the financial cost of the war is staggering and makes us realize that we must revisit President Eisenhower’s observation: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
With fatalities increasing dramatically each day, we see even more need to heed Martin Luther King’s warning about the use of violence as a method of resolving conflict. We grieve for those who have lost loved ones in this war, and we want to see the war brought to an end. We also agree with the World Council of Churches and the National [U.S.] Council of Churches in condemning the war. In addition, we think the best way we can support our troops is by bringing them home.
Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Overall, we do not see ourselves as dreamy-eyed idealists who are not patriotic because of our commitment to peace and nonviolence. Rather, we see ourselves as practical and hopeful agents of change who can bring about a more peaceful community and world in our opposition to methods of violence.
Paul Goodnature is an adjunct English professor at Riverland