Spiritual and Political Dimensions of Nonviolence and Peace

Spiritual and Political Dimensions of Nonviolence and Peace

Spiritual and Political Dimensions of Nonviolence and Peace

Spiritual and Political Dimensions of Nonviolence and Peace

Excerpt

If I apply contemporary political nomenclature to my family tree, the limbs run all shades of red and blue. With some relatives, conversations stick to the safe issues of children, work, how the trip down went, and then back to children— it is so much easier now that I actually have a child myself and have contributed to the common discourse. Inevitably, because families are what they are, the conversation will lurch into contentious ground. The subject might be military work (we differ on notions of "service"); injustices based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability; the role of our government, domestic and global; or the causes of terrorism and war—be it an operation cleverly named to capture the popular imagination or the broader war which has laid siege to the minds and the resources of the United States since September 2001.

With such material, we have plenty to argue about should talk about children turn stale. But because we recognize that most of our arguments will be futile—we are family, after all—we have developed language to come back to amicable terms. We reassure ourselves of our similarities by returning to solid ground upon which we (mostly) agree. When the prayer is offered before the family reunion meal, the language of peace brings everything together. There: we all want peace. Pass me those potatoes and I will not badger you about your car's bumper stickers.

Who does not want peace? Donald Rumsfeld and Desmond Tutu want peace. Kathy Kelly and Condoleeza Rice both want peace. If we ask the CEOs of any weapons-related industry, they will say they want peace, too. Peace is supremely, ironically, not contentious in this respect. If we put aside the technicalities of our different definitions about the content and character of peace (admittedly, the stuff of serious dispute), most of us claim to be motivated by a desire for peace. Generally, even disparate visions of peace may include elements of both negative peace (absence of physical violence) and positive peace (freedom from injustices and insecurities).

Somehow, nonviolence does not occupy the same sort of safe ground. Perhaps the concept of nonviolence is controversial because it cannot be understood simply as an end-state, a place at which we arrive (by whatever means we manage) and from which we can dissociate ourselves from our methods of travel. By embracing nonviolence, we not only align ourselves . . .

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