An Alternative to Endless War
Yesterday, I was reflecting on 9/11, and all that has come since. I remained horrified by the events of that morning, as all of us who witnessed it were. And like so many of us who lived through that day, I was part of the national outpouring of patriotism and the quest for justice-gilded revenge which followed. 17 years later, with our country still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, I am forced to look at the days that followed September 11, 2001 in a different light, and think of how the underlying principles play out in my own life. One of our Rabbi Yeshua’s (Jesus) most difficult teachings is “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.” Have any of us mastered his teaching? Or do we still continue to act from instinct, and when we are struck, strike back immediately? And not because we need to. But because we want to. I know that many of us abhor that lesson, since it seems to teach submission to violence; submission to tyranny. But it does not. It offers instead a non-violent means of resistance which not only displays the spiritual maturity of the person harmed, but offers a lesson to the transgressor – “See, your violence achieved nothing; if you wish to have some effect on me, you must find another way.” By responding to violence with more violence, we not only reinforce the aggressor’s belief in the effectiveness of violence, we guarantee the continuance of the cycle of violence. And in our personal lives, this “violence” doesn’t necessarily mean physical violence - there are many ways that people can use violence in an attempt to harm or control us - mental, emotional, financial.... The point is that by not responding to attack in the expected fashion, we can become the ones controlling the interaction. You can get a clear understanding of what's involved in non-violence by looking at the instructions that Mahatma Gandhi gave to followers of his satyagraha (civil resistance) movement in India in 1930.
A satyagrahi, i.e., a civil resister, will harbour no anger.
He will suffer the anger of the opponent.
In so doing he will put up with assaults from the opponent, never retaliate; but he will not submit, out of fear of punishment or the like, to any order given in anger.
It should be noted that not responding violently does not equal submission. There is a third path, one that we might have walked as a nation, and one that I urge us all to walk each and every day as individuals. As an Army Targeting Officer, I came to learn that many of the effects we wished to achieve could only be reached through what we referred to as “non-lethal” means. As a Unity minister, what I have come to realize is that it may well be that none of our long-term goals as a nation can be achieved through “lethal” means; none of our goals as individuals can be, either. We can all become living examples of the Truth that violence is ineffective in achieving desired results. As that Truth begins to spread, violence will die off, like an invasive plant denied water. One last thing: sometimes, the only thing we can do (short of getting sucked into an endless war) is to get out. If you are in a personal or professional relationship which has become violent at any level, and you perceive yourself to be in danger, make a plan to get out, and do it. Reach out, get help, and do not be too proud to ask for it. Defensiveness is a product of the ego, but so is the refusal to ask for or accept assistance when we are in peril. Thankfully, we have a teaching that shows us how to avoid defensiveness through the practice of humility, by “turning the other cheek” when we are “struck”. Today, I urge each of us as individuals; I implore us as a nation, when struck on one cheek, turn the other, and break the cycle of violence, rather than learn to live with endless war. In love and peace, Rev. Charles