It is widely argued that the act of war, or in a lesser sense, violence, can have an impact for good on humanity. I'm not sure where my opinion lies in this field. So I would like to make two separate points and see where they lead. Some of the references I use may be unfamiliar to some of my readers, mostly those who randomly stumble upon me, since the majority of my friends are of the same faith as I am, if you are interested in the quotes I would be more than happy to direct you to where they come from.
One: Violence begets Violence.
Like the saying goes, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
“But I say unto you... whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Matthew 5:39-41
Perhaps, for some, a weak beginning, as it comes from the Bible, which so often contradicts itself. Did not the Bible also give us the Law of Moses which called for stoning of adulterer's? But I like to think of this as the 'higher' law, the one that is harder to attain, because not only does it demand self-control, self-restraint, but also forgiveness.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a firm believer in non-violence, indeed he was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's movement in India. In King's short life he was subject to nothing less than 3 bombings, multiple unjust arrests, an attempted assassination (he was stabbed in the heart) and finally a successful assassination. Yet throughout he continuously promoted a call to non-violence. What could have caused him to lay aside his anger towards his persecutor's so thoroughly? Many might call it pacifism or weakness. Martin Luther King called it Love.
“This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed ... as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.” -MLK Jr. 1967
There is another group of people who many do not know about. They believed in non-violence as well.
“Now when the people saw that they were coming against them, they went out to meet them and prostrated themselves to the earth and began to call on the name of the Lord. And thus they were in this attitude when the Lamanites began to fall upon them and began to slay them with the sword.
And thus without meeting any resistance they did slay a thousand and five of them...
Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left but that they would lie down and perish and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword.
Now when the Lamanites saw this, they did forbear from slaying them and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword
And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed.
And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain.” Alma 24:21-26
“For behold, they had rather sacrifice their lives than even to take the life of their enemy; and they have buried their weapons of war deep in the earth, because of their love towards their brethren.” Alma 26:32
“This dynamic unity, this amazing self-respect, this willingness to suffer, and this refusal to hit back will soon cause the oppressor to become ashamed of his own methods He will be forced to stand before the world and his God splattered with the blood and reeking with the stench of his... brother.” -MLK Jr.
Violence has brought about great sorrow to many. Indeed, some who have returned war upon other's have been brought down by the very force that they themselves used. We can all name some of these groups, but none comes to mind more strongly to me than the loss of life suffered by the Native American's because of violence.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce was one of the men we learned about in Idaho State History in the 4th grade and I still remember that lesson, it haunts me sometimes, knowing the desperation of his people. His surrender speech has never completely left me:
I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER -
I am tired of fighting.
Our chiefs are killed.
Looking Glass is dead.
Toohulhulsote is dead.
The old men are all dead.
It is the young men who say no and yes.
He who led the young men is dead.
It is cold and we have no blankets.
The little children are freezing to death.
My people, some of them,
Have run away to the hills
And have no blankets, no food.
No one know where they are-
Perhaps they are freezing to death.
I want to have time to look for my children
And see how many of them I can find.
Maybe I shall find them among the dead.
Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired.
My heart is sad and sick.
From where the sun now stands
I will fight no more forever.
In the book 1491 by Charles C. Mann, he describes an America before European discovery as a magnificent place to behold, with art, science, philosophy that had developed free from any Eastern influence. A world shattered, and nearly annihilated by it's conquerers.
“Voltaire, Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes never had a chance to speak with these men or even know of their existence- and here, at last, we begin to appreciate the enormity... for the disintegration of native America was a loss not just to those societies but to the human enterprise as a whole.” -Mann
I think that Martin Luther King Jr. describes this best when he says so eloquently:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it... Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate..., adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” -MLK Jr.
The danger of violence is simple, all humanity has one great commonality besides love and that is pride. Pride for self, family, country and so forth. When you subject a person or persons to degradation and shame you rouse in them an emotion as equally powerful as love but far more destructive. So it is that we begin to see: “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.” -MLK Jr.
Stay tuned for Part2: Righteous anger brings about righteous purposes.