Since my childhood, I have believed that both petty and global conflicts can be resolved through the power of nonviolence.
In school, when a kid bullied me, my parents told me, “Never hit back.” Since I was puny — 90 pounds in ninth grade — this strategy was my best option. My strategy worked. A burly, unruly kid named Tom befriended me and prevented others from dumping my books in the hallway. I reciprocated by helping him with his homework during study halls.
In college, I immersed myself in the nonviolent teachings of Gandhi and King. I did not take part in protests or boycotts; rather, I sold Gandhi’s autobiography and organized film showings of the 1982 movie “Gandhi,” with Ben Kingsley playing the great leader of nonviolence. The ideology of nonviolence as a political solution and a way of life was becoming deeply rooted in me.
After completing my medical training and establishing a practice in Memphis, I was pulled again to work on nonviolence. In 2003, I was part of a coalition that included the National Civil Rights Museum, the Peace and Justice Center, M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and the Indian Community Fund, and we organized the Gandhi-King Conference.
Each year, the conference brings 300 to 400 adults from their weekend chores or football watching to contemplate how nonviolence can change the world and their personal lives. And it will happen again this year, beginning Thursday evening at Christian Brothers University, where national speakers will gather and talk about global and local peacemaking.
Though we have been convening for nearly a decade, over the past few years, I began to feel that the message of nonviolence and the struggles led by Gandhi and King had become stale — almost a cliché. People said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that Gandhi’s and King’s success was just an aberrant set of nonviolent events in a bloody, gun-rattled modern history of humanity.
But this year, from Tunisia to Egypt, we all watched the Middle East erupt — or perhaps I should say blossom. Though most people saw uprisings and protests in the streets, I saw the strategies of Gandhi and King revived on the global stage. My daughter, who previously took little interest in politics and nonviolence, was now intrigued by the use of Facebook and Twitter. At next week’s conference, she and I will do a presentation on this.
As I approach my midlife years, and mature in my thinking about nonviolence, I fully understand that peoples and nations often do not choose nonviolent means as a route to resolve their conflicts, but when they do, world opinion and the moral high ground is on their side, as was the case among the Egyptian youth.
As I look at the youth of today across the globe who are using social media as a political tool, I am convinced more than ever before in the promise of nonviolence as a political strategy for change. And I am even more proud that my daughter thinks the same.
Source: Commercial Appeal