I received a note-worthy comment on my June blog on violence. Only last week did I realize how to make comments appear after the recent updates—technology is not one of my talents. I want to repeat that comment as the lead in to my July essay.
‘Your insight - that the only formula for success is to put the self at risk in front of the offending party - is correct and difficult. It doesn't satisfy a sense of "fairness" because it is not fair... but it is the way that the arc of history is bent towards justice. (And that arc doesn't bend itself) Anonymous’
Thank you for that wisdom, Anonymous. Surely life is not fair! Throughout my children’s growing up years, each time one came in whining ‘it isn’t fair’ about some perceived injustice done to them my response to them first was ‘and what did you do before that?’ followed by my stating ‘Life isn’t fair, but it is our job to make it more fair’. Making it more fair includes standing before the injustice and refusing to resort to violence. That is what Gandhi, the Suffragettes, and MLK did and they made gigantic progress against the odds. We celebrate, respect and admire what they achieved.
The arc of justice doesn’t bend itself; the moral universe is not inevitable. Humans are the only species capable of envisioning and understanding morality which involves principles of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood. We know of it because of having reflective awareness—the ability to see forward and back to realize the consequences of our choices.
It is for that reason I wrote ‘violence is never the answer’. Returning violence with more violence can only and will always escalate to ever more violence until someone is defeated or something is destroyed. Violence has as its objective to crush, defeat, and/or destroy—to WIN. The wiser objective is to raise awareness to the injustice and negotiate a solution.
Our desire for fairness sometimes gets in the way of reason. When there is unfairness, tempers rise and indignation fuels anger—but it is within our ability to control the anger and not return the violence with more violence. The marches of the 60’s did that. Violence will never cure injustice; it will only expand and extend it. Justice can be reached only by awakening to moral order; standing against violence and putting the self at risk.
The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and subsequent murder of George Floyd by white policemen has awakened world-wide awareness to legal systems being unjust. Our law enforcement system unjustly targets blacks and minorities. But consider: it is the job of police to control crime and keep order. It is a fact, that in general, police unfairly treat people of color—as with George Floyd. This attitude arises from a white supremist belief that all non-whites are inferior and more prone to crime and violence . . . so when those protesting retaliate and become violent (even if it be for a valid reason) that violence serves to reinforce their view and confirms in their minds the need to ‘levy control’, i.e. bring out stronger weapons.
There is such a thing as righteous anger. It is correct to be angered by injustice . . . that is what we see in the marches, a voice raised against injustice. MLK did it without resorting to violence
--the million-man march and other 60’s marches were morality-based protests. They were completely non-violent on the marcher’s part; the only violence was perpetrated by the ‘controllers’ . . . and their violence was witnessed. The cost was the loss of a great leader and many other ‘innocents’, but the gain was that a huge measure of justice was won with sweeping changes in the law.
Humanity is progressing but progress is slow . . . bringing primitive man through inventing and learning to use language then how to preserve ideas by writing, to awakening to the need for laws, learning how to plan for future needs, recognizing the wrongness of invading and plundering, finally relinquishing slavery as incompatible with civilization, becoming aware that all people have inherent value . . . now we are struggling to understand justice and its place in the world we have created.
It has taken thousands of years for mankind to begin to see justice as a goal. Even as short a time as 150 years ago, mankind knew the words but not the meaning of ‘justice for all’. It will take many generations to inch toward its achievement. Having recognized there is a flaw in our justice system is a giant step in the right direction. I’m not suggesting to stop there, but I am suggesting there is a need to stop the violence that breaks out, because it causes the loss of our objective toward justice. Keep marching, keep protesting, but temper the anger, be persistent but don’t throw rocks or antagonize those whose job it is to keep order. When they choose violence be willing to put self at risk.
Today we mourn the passing of John Lewis. In his lifetime he was demeaned, jailed and beaten but he never resorted to violence. Let his example lead. He is highly regarded by people of all colors and in both parties. He will remain among the great American heroes. He was a true moral leader.