Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Freedom Riders

The 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders is being recognized now and there have been a number of very moving, inspirational and depressing articles about it written by Leonard Pitts and others, as well as a documentary on PBS – where else? - which so many of our most vociferous freedom-loving friends would de-fund. The spiritual aspects of non-violence are just as relevant now as then and just as difficult to apply now as then.

“Embracing nonviolence is not for the faint of heart,” Pitts quotes James Zwerg, now a minister who was beaten bloody as a Freedom Rider. “You have to push yourself beyond the comfort of the old habits and this requires strength. It may not always be popular speaking up for the truth. You may face personal attacks, verbal attacks, maybe even physical attacks. Nonviolence is not easy. It is demanding of the body, mind and soul.”

And here are some neat and important distinctions that I was aware of, find extremely useful and powerful, but until now, never associated with the nonviolence movement. “Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding without making enemies. Most people” – and this is so true of me – “ deal with conflicts by asking ‘How do I get my way?’ When we think this way, we let our egos manage the conflict. There’s a better way. When we make nonviolence a way of life, the first thing we ask at a time of conflict, ‘What is the most loving thing to do?’”

“Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people. We reject all forms of violence” including hatred, anger and blame. “Nonviolence is not used to inflict harm, but to bring healing. It realizes that our adversary is not the person we face, but their prejudice. We confront the hate, not the hater. Instead of returning anger with anger, we respond with calm, understanding, love and forgiveness. The universe is on the side of justice and that right will eventually prevail.”

Pitts ends by saying, “I don’t know if I could have done it. But thank God, someone could.” Amen!

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