I'm traveling in California for two weeks, giving talks on my new book, Lazarus, Come Forth!, and had the chance to spend an afternoon recently with my friend Anne Symens-Bucher to see for myself the new community she and her family have created in Oakland. The mother of five, a lifelong peace activist and secular Franciscan, Anne and her husband, Terry, recently founded "Canticle Farm," a peace and nonviolence community right smack-dab in inner-city Oakland. I was impressed and inspired by this bold, hopeful move.
On the Road to Peace
Jim Douglass is one of the world's great teachers, theologians and practitioners of Christian nonviolence. I regularly return for inspiration to his classic works The Nonviolent Cross, Resistance and Contemplation and Lightning East to West, which have been recently republished by wipfandstock.com. Based at Mary's House Catholic Worker in Birmingham, Ala., Jim spent the last two decades completing his groundbreaking work, JFK and the Unspeakable, which detailed the forces which aligned to kill President John F. Kennedy in order to stop his work for peace and disarmament.
One of the nation's sharpest, clearest and brightest voices for justice and peace is Loyola University-New Orleans law professor Bill Quigley, who is also associate director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Besides teaching, Bill volunteers with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince as well as with disenfranchised people in New Orleans and anti-war activists on trial, such as the recent Creech 14 trial in Las Vegas.
On Sept. 1, 1987, one of the most dedicated peace activists in the nation sat down with friends on the train tracks outside the Concord Naval Weapons Station near the Bay Area in California to block a U.S. Navy Munitions train loaded with weapons bound for Nicaragua and El Salvador.
Last summer, 85-year-old Mennonite peace activist Peter Ediger decided to take his passion for peace to the churches in Las Vegas, where he lives. Peter works for Pace e Bene, the Franciscan nonviolence program. Like many of us, he's concerned that the churches in the United States are ignoring, if not blatantly rejecting, the nonviolence of Jesus. So he wrote to area churches and announced that he would visit a different church every Sunday morning, keep vigil outside as parishioners entered and then join their worship service. During his vigil, he would hold up a large sign asking them about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount commandment, "Love your enemies."
To mark Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I've been reflecting on the principles of nonviolence that he learned during the historic yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.
After Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, broke the segregation law and was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, the African-American leadership in Montgomery famously chose young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to lead their campaign.
Like millions around the world, I, too, was touched by the recent YouTube video of 18-year-old Ben Breedlove, filmed one week before he died of a heart attack on Christmas Day in Austin, Texas. In the simple, short, silent film, he holds small, white notecards in front of his face, describing his serious heart ailment, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which makes it difficult for his heart to pump blood normally. He tells of several near-death experiences and the supernatural peace he felt when he almost died last month at school.
"When a person claims to be nonviolent, he is expected not to be angry with one who has injured him," Gandhi wrote. "He will not wish him harm. He will wish him well. He will not swear at him. He will not cause him any physical hurt. He will put up with all the injury to which he is subjected by the wrongdoer. Thus nonviolence is complete innocence."
That was Gandhi's editorial message on Sept. 3, 1922, in his newspaper, Young India. He was trying to inspire his nation to reach the highest ideal of peace, love and nonviolence as they resisted British imperialism.
Who could possibly be that nonviolent? Most of us get angry and vengeful at the slightest put-down. I know I do. If I'm disrespected or attacked for one reason or another -- and that happens frequently to anyone who speaks against war -- I feel hurt, then get angry, then want to retaliate with a verbal attack or worse. If I repress those feelings, I end up with a pool of resentment that eventually needs to be addressed or it will lead to even greater judgmentalism, self-righteousness or explosive violence.
There is much to celebrate this Christmas. The Arab Spring, the millions who marched for justice and democracy throughout the Arab world, and the fall of various dictatorships; the ongoing campaign to protect the environment, including the Keystone Tar Sands pipeline protests and last week's protests at the U.N. Global Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa; upcoming elections for Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma; the three heroic African women who won the Nobel Peace Prize; and closer to home, the amazing Occupy movement that has exposed the class warfare by the 1 percent against the 99 percent. The struggle for justice and peace goes on. Millions are engaged. The movements are moving.
A few weeks ago at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant near Amarillo, Texas, the United States dismantled its last B53 bomb. There was no fanfare and little publicity. Some people were probably sad to see it go.
Some reports called the B53 "the most powerful bomb" in our arsenal. It certainly was one of the most destructive weapons ever created, the bad fruit of Gen. Curtis LeMay and his insane nuclear club.