May 11, 2006

Labels and Violence

Our friend Don has a fine post this morning, as part of his on-going reflections on peace and non-violence:

"There is so much focus on the distinction between nonviolence and violence, between nonviolent people and violent people. But in reality it's not that easy to take sides like that. One can never be sure that one is completely on the side of nonviolence or that the other person is completely on the side of violence. Nonviolence is a direction, not a separating line. It has no boundaries.--Thich Nhat Hanh.

"This quote comes from one of my favorite authors and it expresses a truth that is too often not appreciated. We/they, us/them arguments are false arguments that leave us as adversaries. Peacemaking requires not only the acceptance of the enemy as he/she is. It requires us first to accept that we are flawed, that no one is completely violent or nonviolent. Living this way helps us accept ourselves and others as we are with all our imperfection. Peace."

I appreciate Don's reflection because it points out that even the distinctions we make in our effort to promote peace can become forms of violence. We must exercise great care in the categories and labels we apply to each other!

2 comments:

Don said...

Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate what you have written. I really have been moved following the JPIC retreat last weekend. I've been asked by my Franciscan fraternity to present my experiences at the retreat along with my friend Brother Joe.
The Engage book from Pace e Bene is very good and insightful material. Peace.

Br. Chris Gaffrey, ofm said...

Thanks for the food for though. I remember a scene from the movie Gandhi which I think is appropriate in this case. Candace Bergen' character, the journalist Bourke-White, is talking to Gandhi:

BOURKE-WHITE:
You really are going to Pakistan, then? (Gandhi shrugs, and she
chides too) You are a stubborn man.

GANDHI
a grin, in the mood of their "flirtation"): I'm simply going to prove to Muslims there, and Hindus here, that the only devils in the world are those running around in our own hearts - and that's where all our battles ought to be fought.

BOURKE-WHITE:
And what kind of a warrior have you been in that warfare?

GANDHI:
Not a very good one. That's why I have so much tolerance for the
other scoundrels of the world.

(http://www.awesomefilm.com/script/gandhi.txt)

This line always reminds me that humility is a prerequisite for working for peace.