Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rev. C. T. Vivian - An American Satyagrahi

The evening of September 12th I listened to one of America's own warriors for truth, the Rev. C. T. Vivian. Prior to his speaking he showed a clip from the civil rights movement - a moment that we are fortunate to have preserved in video - where he stood at a courthouse in Alabama, with 40 or so African Americans behind him, ready to register to vote but were blocked by the sheriff and his comrades. Rev. Vivian spoke truth to this opponent, his voice never betraying anger, only passionate insistence on equality. The sheriff, unable to dissuade the group, beat the Reverand, a man walking in Christ's truth, to the ground. At no time did Rev. Vivian strike back or even block the blows. As I watched the images dance before me, the violence and oppression, Gahndi's words kept playing in my mind, "When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always."

Growing up in America and moving about as I have I've noticed that nearly every city, if not every, has a street named after Martin King. But as I learn more about these other brave warriors using the force of truth, I realize that we need to start making a lot more street signs. Rev. Vivian has only a few paragraphs to his entry in Wikipedia, but if you read them you learn that he had several successful nonviolent campaigns before he joined with MLK for the larger satyagraha. How did these Christian ministers learn to wield man's most powerful weapon so effectively? For that we must give our gratitude to James M. Lawson Jr, who trained at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the request of King. By this time Lawson had already spent time in prison as a conscientious objector (I so love a Christian that lives by the model of Christ). After his release he went as a Methodist missionary to India where he studied Gandhi's principles for satyagraha. It was through Lawson that the seeds of nonviolent non-cooperation firmly took hold in the South and gave the civil rights movement its strategy - nonviolent direct ACTION. Rev. Vivian emphasized to the crowd that it's in action that change happens.

The Rev. Vivian still has that great passion, vision and love. What is alive in him, can live in us all if we can shed fear. I've read so many first hand accounts of the events at the Republican National Convention (RNC) and realize that we need deperately to enliven that spirit in all Americans before it's too late. We need to own our own media and make sure our stories are broadcast over a loud speaker to the world. America is no longer the land of the free, it is a police state. Our voices are no longer allowed to be heard. We can not even go in numbers larger than three to our senators office in Portland Oregon - supposedly a progressive city. We have much work to do and I know that patience in many sectors of the peace movement is wearing dangerously thin. Many people are still not convinced that nonviolence is the only true path to lasting peace. There are many tactics available to the satyagahis, but only one strategy, and that is the same one used by Gandhi and MLK - Nonviolent Direct ACTION.

Thank you Rev. Vivian for reminding me of the not too distant path so that I remain true to my path and the radical use of force, the force of truth that is.

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