Although this post will appear as my trip to India draws to its close, I'm writing it before I go. I'm writing it before I go because, having just come through six months of struggling to keep guns off our college and university campuses in Arkansas, I want to jot down my thoughts about gunsense, violence, and nonviolence, while the memories of that struggle are fresh and clear.
And I want to get these thoughts down just before I enter the Tibetan refugee community in India, a community that has been popularly perceived as nonviolent, and certainly has one of the strongest nonviolent voices in the world, but is also a community that has a diversity of voices, one chorus of which has advocated armed resistance against the Chinese. When I return, lord willin' & the creek don't rise, as we say around these parts, I'll see how my observations fare.
Three thoughts come to mind now:
- Changing minds requires more time, understanding, and flat-out teaching than changing laws. While we're moving toward a more socially just and peaceful community, violence continues to express itself with guns in America. And so sound gun legislation is necessary, primary, preserving. That iceberg over there in American culture that we call violence has a very gunny-looking tip.
- Violence and nonviolence, war and peace, are not opposed phenomena. They exist on the same spectrum, but at each point along that spectrum, except at the very middle, one predominates over the other. And we always cultivate one knowing full well that the other will be diminished as a result. Everyone says violence is inevitable; but no one says that nonviolence is equally inevitable, and that is a mistake. The spectrum that unites these two powerful forces is here to stay; it's human; and we need to learn to manage it to our benefit.
- The dissection and understanding of violence is detailed: manslaughter, first degree, mugging, verbal assault, domestic abuse, and the list goes on. For nonviolence, we haven't yet understood its many degrees, as Gandhi encouraged us to do. Not everyone is capable of Gandhi's nonviolence, but everyone values the safety, security, and happiness that even the most minimal nonviolent behavior can cultivate. Give nonviolence the same subtle shades we give to violence.
So, those three for now. More later.