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The nonviolent resistance movement needs to reach the youth

I wrote the following in response to a young observer's reaction to the call to action a friend and I put out, "We Need A Nonviolent Revolution: Resist in March":

It is essential to reach younger folks as the movement for peace and social justice moves into a more protracted and serious phase. Many younger folks are jumping for joy at the idealism and hope of the Obama campaign, but as Malachy and I stated the answers to the tragedies and disarray in this country and the multitude of horrors our government has inflicted on others, does not lie with continuing to be deferential to the powers that be. We must go far, far beyond simply voting.

While I am glad to see the idealism alive, I wonder if it's not at least partially misplaced. I firmly believe that the hope lies within the people. The people of good conscience, who will not swallow the
lies and soak up the fearmongering dished out by not only the politicians but a corporately controlled media.

Ben makes some good points, and I would also like to point out that on March 12th and 19th a couple hundred students will be taking part in the actions in D.C. ( Perhaps they are trying to harvest their own "organic memories" of nonviolent direct action. Perhaps the war and military occupation will not be stopped at that
moment, but I believe the movement will have grown. And, I think Ben and I would agree, the movement needs to continue to grow and be supported in order to ultimately be successful.

It took years of struggle for Vietnam to be ended -- and that was before my time. My introduction to nonviolent civil resistance (which is different from nonviolent civil disobedience -- see below) was
during the anti-apartheid movement of the mid-80s when I was a teenager. It was during this time that I went to weekly protests in front of the South African Embassy, we were mourning the death of
Steven Biko and other great leaders like him -- and demanding the release from prison of Nelson Mandela. I saw the mayor, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and many others being arrested for simply walking to the door of the South African Embassy (our permitted spot was about a block away). I am convinced worldwide pressure certainly helped in the dismantling of the Apartheid State.

While it is true that many students today can't remember a time when nonviolent direct action resulted in change, that does not mean that positive change can't be had through these types of actions. While nonviolent civil disobedience in the times of Gandhi and Rosa Parks was extremely successful, this does not mean that human nature has changed that much from 1947, or 1957, or even 1967 during Vietnam. We are still all the same species, capable of great love and great hate.

While some maybe highly cynical of our actions, we must continue. In fact, we have little choice. And ultimately if enough people believe in their own power -- rather than waiting for the next election, they will be successful. Recent success stories have included the nonviolent revolution in Bolivia

From a Reason Magazine article:

"Nonviolent resistance, Schock reminds us, is not the same thing as "passive resistance." It's a set of tactics, not a politically correct lifestyle; it's aimed not at persuading leaders to change their
policies, but at making it impossible to enforce those policies. Gene Sharp has been cataloging those tactics for decades, listing 198 of them in 1973's three-volume study The Politics of Nonviolent Action
and citing several more since then. They fall into three general categories: methods of protest and public persuasion (e.g., a march), of organized noncooperation (e.g., a tax strike), and of "nonviolent intervention" (e.g., a land occupation). Contrary to the conventional wisdom, such methods have frequently worked under repressive dictatorships as well as under relatively benign systems; many times they've succeeded where guerilla tactics have failed. In 23 of those31 rebellions, from Bolivia to Bulgaria and from Mongolia to Mali, the uprising contributed directly to regime change.

And that statistic understates what has happened, since it focuses on the most visible sort of success. More substantial changes can occur without the government formally changing hands. Of the recent turbulence in Latin America, the most interesting event may be the revolt of the Bolivian Indians. They were the backbone of the protests
that drove President Sanchez de Lozada out of power in 2003, and of the more recent turmoil as well, but that's not what I'm referring to here. I'm referring to the fact that about a fifth of the country's
population now lives in villages that run their own affairs, outside of the capital's control. This power was not ceded to them. They simply took it."

The article also states that the number of nonviolent revolutions worldwide actually increased during the last portion of the 20th century. Here's the URL:

I do think that fear is a motivator for people not wishing to risk arrest. But Ben is absolutely right, it's not the only one. My hope is that folks will come together in solidarity and begin to working
toward a more just and peaceful future, it's time to stop doubting our own power to act collectively.

And about the difference between civil disobedience and civil resistance: Civil disobedience is about specifically breaking unjust laws in order to highlight them and draw greater criticism of their
inhumane and immoral nature. Civil resistance, and the other hand, is usually aimed at a wider set of governmental policies/practices. It's never about breaking the law with nonviolent civil resistance, rather we are trying to highlight the crimes committed by the government, thereby holding up what many have referred to as higher laws -- whether they be "God's laws," or international laws such as Nuremberg and the Geneva Conventions. So laws maybe broken during nonviolent civil resistance, but that is never the primary goal.

Ie: Resisting Jim Crow or Boston tea party or even war tax resistance -- nonviolent civil disobedience.
374 of us on September 26, 2005 calling for an end to the Iraq War or the popular uprising in Bolivia this decade -- nonviolent civil resistance.

I look forward to many more conversations about the power of nonviolent direct action. And I think we are all students, as Joy put it.


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Teen in the 80's were you?

Well I'm here to tell you that protest and peaceful resistance didn't bring about the end of the socalled Viet Nam Conflict, an undeclared war that spread out to Cambodia and Laos, and even some of the northern fringe areas of Northern Thailand around Tak Li and Korat where the U S had established bomber and fighter air bases.

How do I know this? Because I was there for an almost continuous thirty nine months beginning November 29, 1963 just a few days after Kennedy was assassinated.

That war ended because "WE" got our asses whipped trying to fight a guerilla war with a conventional army using conventional war tactics against Viet Cong aka citizen soldiers that were indistinguishable from any other ordinary civilian until you were suddenly attacked in force or amubushed.

The few real successes the U S Military had was when battle was enjoined with the NVA, aka the organized, in uniform, North Vietnamese Army.

From the time Admiral Dewey was defeated by guerillas in the Philipines, to Viet Nam, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U S civilian and military leadership has still not come to the realized fact that it is impossible to fight and defeat non uniformed civilian guerillas not bound to rules of engagement, (while we must follow the rules of war and use conventional war tactics) where the man or woman that does your laundry in the morning may be the person that slits your throat that night.

You might just as well try to fight and defeat your own shadow.

The irony of it all is that the U S military, all branches, already has expertly trained special operations personnel, trained to fight in like kind against any guerilla organization anywhere in the world but will not authorize using those tactics and the people trained to enter war in that manner due to the fact that it is illegal under the prescribed rules of engagement to make war in the Geneva Convention which puts the United States Military to an extremely grave disadvantage. I know this to be a fact too because I WAS an officer and one of those specially trained operations personnel as well as a trainer of specops people.

If the U S had authorized just a few teams of special operations personnel right after the attack on 911, after bin Laden announced his taking credit for the attack and when the aproximate whereabouts of Osama bin Laden was known...bin Laden would be a dead man right now.

In fact if our nation just said to hell with the Geneva rules and used our special ops people overtly, they could be in Pakistan finding that bin Laden sonofabitch. But our nation will not do that and that is what seperates and puts the U S A above its ruthless, unscrupulous enemies that believe the only rule is to kill.

The same could be said if they turned our special ops people loose in Iraq to seek out and kill the socalled insurgents still attacking our troops there.

But don't think I don't respect your wanting to go the peaceful route because I do.

But as long as one U S Soldier is caused to remain in any of theater of combat and is in jeapordy of losing life or limb from any form of ambush anywhere, I will take the high road approach to seek and kill as many of the attackers as necessary to put it all to an end.


The political party I belong to is the entire body politic of the United States of America and our Constitution that I support without bias which neither states or implies any allegiance with any other socalled organized political party.

Thanks for your response and sharing your experience. I know plenty of veterans, and many of them would agree with me that killing is never "the high road."

An eye for an eye, leaves the whole world blind. It is my sincere hope that people will stop killing each other, and instead work together to solve many of our common problems (one would be our own governments that tell us fighting wars is a good thing).

I am also not convinced that the conspiracy theory the government has sold us about 9/11 is in fact the whole truth. We need to continue to question authority, and this too is a very American trait.


Do me a favor and imagine yourself in the position our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are in....there not by choice, no personal choice to leave, no plans by those in authority to withdraw you, and you're in a country where hostiles that look the same as other people in the area where you are that can kill you without warning at any second of the day or night.

What would you do? Sit and wait for someone's bullet or bomh to take you and/or your buddy's out, or do you might think you would take a cautious look around for the enemy?

Pete, friend, its one of those you have to be there or have been there things in order to have any real understanding about it.

And believe me there is all the differnce between night and day between veterans that never served in a field of combat and those that have and are serving as active combatants right now.

The "high road" isn't a road to take by choice surely...but it the road one must travel when they have no other choice but to travel it.

I think that given no other choice but to kill or be killed you would choose the latter over the former out of the natural baser instincts humans have to survive. At least I hope that would be your choice.

A child seeing fire for the first time might stick his hand over a flame once and get burned, but seldom if ever would a child do it a second time. I hope you get the understanding for the situational comparison even as dissimilar as they are.

It might be easier to say it this way. Do I like killing? No.

In a particular situation would I kill to survive? Yes. In less than a heartbeat. And I have. I am not proud of it, and I pray that I never have to do it again.


The political party I belong to is the entire body politic of the United States of America and our Constitution that I support without bias which neither states or implies any allegiance with any other socalled organized political party.

I pray I would have the strength to follow the brave path of Camillo Mejia and go to jail rather than war. In fact, I probably will go to jail within the next couple of years due to my nonviolent direct actions. I just wrote a priest today who is in jail for simply walking onto a military base where torture is trained with the intention of speaking out against this crime against humanity.

Perhaps we can agree to disagree. But I think we'll still be respectful of each other as brothers walking through this beautiful and troubled world.


First off, if i was going into an area where violence is an everyday sight, going into an area that has done mass harm to my country, home, or family, there would be no talking, if very little. a dog is gonna bark when you rattle his cage. you dont just "talk" to a country where there leader has been known to commit hundreds of acts of punishment,and public beheadings. you dont just " talk" to someone who has taken part in MASS GENOCIDE! you go in with the amount needed of necessary force to take control of the situation.

Obviously strategies differ depending on who you deal with. Gandhi would even admit this. But I think dialogue can (and morally should) always be included as part of a resistance process.

Actually, I thought the leader you were describing was G. W. Bush.

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