"Nonviolent refusal to cooperate
with injustice is the way to defeat it.
"Generally speaking, the first nonviolent act is not fasting,
but dialogue. The other side, the adversary, is recognized as a
person, he is taken out of his anonymity and exists in his own right...
To engage someone in dialogue is to recognize him, have faith in
him. At every step in the nonviolent struggle, at every level we
try tirelessly to establish a dialogue, or reestablish it if it
has broken down.
"I fully support Campaign Nonviolence
and call upon friends across the U.S. to join
this new movement to work for the abolition of war, poverty and
and pursue with new vigor Dr. King's vision of a culture of peace
Together, we can create a new world of peace." --Archbishop Desmond Tutu
"The motivation underlying our activism
for social change must be transformed from anger and despair to
compassion and love. It is not to deny the legitimacy of noble anger
or outrage at injustice of any kind. Rather, we seek to work for
love, rather than against evil. We need to adopt compassion and
love as our foundational intention, and do whatever inner work is
required to implement this intention. Even if our outward actions
remain the same, there is a major difference in results if our
underlying intention supports love rather than defeating evil."
“Non-violence leads to the highest
ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming
all other living beings, we are still savages.” --Thomas
"Generally speaking, the first
nonviolent act is not fasting, but dialogue. The other side, the
adversary, is recognized as a person, he is taken out of his anonymity
and exists in his own right... To engage someone in dialogue
is to recognize him, have faith in him. At every step in the nonviolent
struggle, at every level we try tirelessly to establish a dialogue,
or reestablish it if it has broken down." --Hildegard
There is an old saying that "to speak the name of our ancestors
is to keep them alive." Today, on his birthday, I speak the
name of labor leader and environmentalist César Estrada
Chávez. He was a man who died prematurely at 66 in 1993,
his life marked by dedicated service, personal sacrifice and constant
threats to him and his family, as well as the formidable efforts
of agribusiness, Teamsters and government agents to derail everything
he tried to accomplish.
Those of us who lived during his time on this earth have a special
obligation to speak his name today and to find enduring ways to
remind our children and ourselves of his legacy. Over the years,
Chávez, more than any other person, was able to bring light,
energy and forward movement to the struggle of farmworkers in
this country. He tirelessly brought attention to society's detachment
from the source of our nourishment, the faceless farmworkers who
labor in the fields to put food on our tables and who suffer the
vicissitudes of a yearly harvest.
Inspired by Mohandas K. Gandhi, Chávez set an example
for the nation in his nonviolent leadership. He used Gandhi's
notion of "moral jujitsu" to describe its effect on
the opposition. He fasted for enlightenment as well as to protest
against intransigent growers or grocery chains or to restrain
his own followers when the impulse to violence reared its ugly
Chávez's successes were many, including the signing of
the first agricultural worker agreements, passage of the Agricultural
Labor Relations Act, banning use of the dreaded and disabling
short-handled hoe and raising the public's awareness about the
dangers of chemicals and pesticides used in modern farming.
In the vernacular of my youthful street self and the many Chicanos
who grew up in the barrios of California and the Southwest, Chávez
was "the Vato" -- the man who stood up to "The
Man," the one who met danger without giving way to fear.
He was courageous and it gave us courage. He was determined and
it made us determined. He practiced tolerance and nonviolence
and it made us more tolerant and nonviolent. He was persistently
hopeful, and it gave us hope. Though he rejected the rhetoric
of the defiant La Raza Movement, he was still ours and he made
Chávez combined a set of virtues to sustain the struggle
he led, relentlessly championing those who have no voice and resisting
the allure of a society propelled by a consumer definition of
happiness. So how do we perpetuate the speaking of his name, to
perpetuate his virtues -- determination, courage, tolerance and
hope? How do we adapt them to the challenges of the future as
Chávez might have?
In Berkeley, the César Chávez Memorial Solar Calendar
Project has chosen a dual approach, with an educational curriculum
(K-12) integrated with a unique memorial that would serve as a
field classroom. The project, more than five years in the making,
aims to create a major work of "site-specific" public
art in the form of an ancient solar calendar, a fitting monument
to a man who devoted his life to the earth and to the farmworkers
who have always lived by understanding the cycle of the seasons.
Think of Stonehenge if you are searching for an image -- or check
the Web site (www.solarcalendar.org)
if you want to see the proposed design in detail.
The Berkeley City Council has provisionally reserved 1.5 acres
at César Chávez Park for the memorial, a site with
a sensational 360-degree panoramic view of the horizon and a perfect
place for reflection. The project connects art, science, culture
and history. The memorial calendar will incorporate the four Chávez
virtues into the four cardinal directions of the site. When the
memorial is completed, it will be both contemplative and educational.
The companion educational curriculum will link the legacy of Chávez
with the pressing need for environmental stewardship and service
to the community.
There are many ways to honor an exceptional leader. One is to
speak his name and to tell his story. The César Chávez
Memorial Solar Calendar and educational curriculum will ensure
that we speak his name, reflect on his life and serve his legacy
through service to our community. There are few major monuments
to individual Latinos in this country. May this be the first one
for Chávez here in the Bay Area.
Santiago Casal is director of the Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar
Project and Rhythm of the Seasons Curriculum (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Pablo Picasso has words for Colin Powell
from the other side of death
Yes, even here, here more than anywhere else,
we know and watch what is going on
what you are doing with the world
we left behind
What else can we do with our time?
Yes, there you were, Mr. Secretary,
I think that is how they call you
there you were
standing in front of my Guernica
a replica it is true
but still my vision of what was done
that day to the men to the women
and to the children to that one child
in Guernica that day in 1937
from the sky
Not really standing in front of it.
It had been covered, our Guernica,
covered so you could speak.
There in the United Nations building.
So you could speak about Iraq.
Undisturbed by Guernica.
Why should it disturb perturb you?
Why did you not ask that the cover
Why did you not point to the shrieking
the horse dying over and over again
the woman with the child forever dead
the child that I nurse here in this darkness
the child who watches with me
as you speak
and you speak.
Why did you not say
This is why we must be rid of the dictator.
Why did you not say
This is what Iraq has already done and undone.
Why did you not say
This is what we are trying to save the world from.
Why did you not use
Guernica to make your case?
Were you afraid that the mother
would leap from her image and say
no he is the one
they are the ones who will bomb
they are the ones who will kill
no no no
he is the one they them
from the distance the bombs
keeping us always out of sight
inside death and out of sight
Were you afraid that the horse
would show the world the near future
three thousand cruise missiles in the first hour
spinning into Baghdad
ten thousand Guernicas
spinning into Baghdad
from the sky
Were you afraid of my art
what I am still saying
more than sixty five years later
the story still being told
the vision still dangerous
the light bulb still hanging
like an eye from the dead
my eye that looks at you from the dead
beware the eye of the child
in the dark
you will join us
the child and I
the horse and the mother
here on the other side
you will join us soon
you will journey here
as we all do
that why you were
afraid of me?
and spend the rest of eternity
next to us
next to the remote dead
not only of Iraq
not only of
that why you were
so afraid of that eye?
your own eyes sewn open wide looking
at the world you left behind
there is nothing else to do
with our time
sentenced to watch
by our side
there will be no Guernicas left
until the living understand
and then, Mr. Secretary,
a world with no Guernicas
you and I
we can rest
you and I and the covered child
Ariel Dorfman's latest books are "Exorcising
Terrror: The Incredible Ongoing Trial of General Augusto Pinochet"
and the poems, "In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land (Duke University
Press)." He has just completed a play about Picasso during
the Nazi occupation of Paris. 03/09/03
(Adapted from his writings and public statements
by Clayborne Carson)
Sunday, February 23, 2003
On a beautiful afternoon in 1959, Coretta and I journeyed from
our hotel in Beirut to take a plane for Jerusalem. After about
two hours in the air we were notified to fasten our seat belts
-- we were beginning to descend for the airport in Jerusalem.
Because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this city has been divided.
And so this was a strange feeling -- to go to the ancient city
of God and see the tragedies of man's hate and evil which causes
him to fight and live in conflict.
Israel's right to exist as a state in security
is incontestable. At the same time the great powers have the obligation
to recognize that the Arab world is in a state of imposed poverty
and backwardness that must threaten peace and harmony. Until a
concerted and democratic program of assistance is affected, tensions
cannot be relieved. So there is a need for a Marshall Plan for
the Middle East.
At the heart of the problem are oil interests.
As the American Jewish Congress has stated, "American policies
in the Middle East have been motivated in no small measure by
the desire to protect the $2.5 billion stake which U.S. oil companies
have invested in the area." Some Arab feudal rulers are no
less concerned for oil wealth and neglect the plight of their
The solution will have to be found in statesmanship
by Israel and progressive Arab forces who, in concert with the
great powers, recognize that fair and peaceful solutions are the
concern of all of humanity. Neither military measures nor a stubborn
effort to reverse history can provide a permanent solution.
As I said in my Nobel Peace Prize Lecture:
Nations are not reducing, but rather increasing, their arsenals
of weapons of mass destruction. The proliferation of nuclear weapons
has not been halted. The fact that most of the time human beings
put the risk of nuclear war out of their minds because it is too
painful does not alter the risk of such a war. Man's proneness
to engage in war is still a fact, but wisdom born of experience
should tell us that war is obsolete.
If we assume that life is worth living,
that man has a right to survive, then we must find an alternative.
In a day when guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death
through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war.
A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous
legacy of human suffering, political turmoil and political disillusionment.
A world war, God forbid, would leave only smoldering ashes as
a mute testimony to the human race whose folly led to ultimate
death. If modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war,
he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno even the
mind of Dante could not imagine.
It is not enough to say we must not wage
war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must
shift the arms race into the peace race.
In 1967, when I took my stand against the
war in Vietnam, I recounted that I had lived in the ghettos of
Chicago and Cleveland, and I knew the hurt, the cynicism and the
discontent. As I walked among the desperate, rejected and angry
young men, I told them Molotov cocktails and rifles would not
solve their problems. I tried to offer my deepest compassion while
maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully
through nonviolent action.
But they asked, and rightly so, "What
about Vietnam?" They asked if our own nation wasn't using
massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about
the changes it wanted. I knew that I could never again raise my
voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without
having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence
in the world today: my own government.
In 1957, a sensitive American official
overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the
wrong side of a world revolution. This need to maintain social
stability for our investments . . . tells why American helicopters
are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American
napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against
rebels in Peru. . . .
It is with such activities in mind that
the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. He
said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will
make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice
or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role
of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to
give up the privileges and pleasures that come from the immense
profits of overseas investments.
When machines and computers, profit motives
and property rights are considered more important than people,
the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism
are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause
us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and
present policies. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily
on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. The Western arrogance
of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing
to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay hands
on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling
differences is not just." This business of burning human
beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans
and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins
of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and
bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically
deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love.
A nation that continues year after year
to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social
uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and
most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this
revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish
to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit
of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
I wrote a long response to your query, but
didn't send it because I realized I was angry when I wrote it--not
at you, because I respect your grappling with these issues, but
at what I consider some of the deeply warped New Age ideas that
you've got to grapple with...
What it comes down to is a set of assumptions
about what constitutes 'spirituality' and even 'peace'--there's
one set of things associated with calm, light, benign thoughts,
lack of conflict, and general positivity that is assumed to be 'spiritual'.
And another set of things associated with conflict, rage, anger,
dirt, darkness, and saying 'no' that is assumed to be non-spiritual.
First of all, I don't accept those divisions.
My spirituality is about dirt, passion, emotion, and even rage--which
is a great life force emotion, a sign that something is wrong somewhere.
But what makes me angry in these debates
is that those espousing the first group of things often claim the
moral high ground. But in moments when great acts of violence are
being proposed and perpetuated, responding with only that first
group of things is, to my mind, unethical and inadequate.
It's a weakened, watered down form of spirituality
that is not effective either spiritually or politically. It's unethical
because what we DON'T resist definitely persists--and spreads all
over the place. Imagine if there was no resistance to Bush's policies,
no marches, no demonstrations, no protests---we'd already be nuking
Iraq back to the stone age. In fact, over the last ten years when
there has been very minimal resistance, sanctions have caused the
death of over half a million Iraqi children--many from the cancer
caused by our depleted uranium.
And no, I don't think it's adequate or appropriate
or terribly useful to respond to this only by praying or meditating
or beaming love at world leaders who already are getting more than
enough attention. I think an honest, ethical, and spiritual response
that includes the whole spectrum of spiritual energies MUST involve
a loud and public saying NO! and our rage, our anger, our passion,
our outrage as well as our vision for what we want.
Without that loud NO! the system is not getting
the feedback it needs to get reset back on a saner course. If you
have a car about to run over a cliff, you can't save it simply by
showing it a better route--you first have to stop it from continuing
in the direction it's going. NO is sometimes necessary and life
And 'peace' can be a code word for 'I want
all those other bad people to go away and disappear and stop making
uncomfortable demands.' When I got back from Palestine, I almost
couldn't use the word because I'd heard so many people claiming
they were for 'peace' when what they meant was, "I want the
problem--and by extension, the Palestinians--to disappear so I don't
have to feel endangered or uncomfortable or guilty any longer."
If our spiritual tools of prayer and meditation
and energy work are powerful, they are most powerful in the midst
of the 'No'--in the protest, in the actions, at the point of confrontation
when people need someone there who can embody faith and nonviolence
and love in the midst of battle. If we use them as an excuse to
stay silent in the face of great injustice, to stay safe when others
are taking risks for justice, to avoid conflict when conflict is
necessary, we diminish ourselves and the spirit and collude with
Philip Berrigan, 1923-2002
One Break-in at a Time
By Judith Mahoney Pasternak Jan/Feb 2003, Nonviolent Activist
He once said
he wanted to die in the trenches, not on the beach.
He came closer than most do to getting his wish: Philip F. Berrigan,
the former priest who helped originate the Plowshares movement against
weapons of mass destruction, died December 6, less than a year since
the end of his last prison term. He was 79.
Philip Berrigan and Liz McAlister
in Portland, ME, on the occasion of his sentencing for his last
Plowshares action. Photo Roger Leisner /Radio Free Maine
The metaphor the trenches, not
the beach was rather martial for a pacifist, but it
fit the man. Philip Berrigan was among the most militant of U.S.
peacemakers, an activist who spent some 11 years in prison for multiple
acts of extreme nonviolent resistance committed over a span of 32
years. A radicals radical, Berrigan defied not only the state,
but the church, as undeterred by excommunication as he had been
by prison; he then went on to challenge the conventions of the very
movement he was part of.
Along with comrades including his brother,
the equally radical poet-priest Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan
engaged in new forms of protest not once, but (at least) twice.
During the Vietnam War, the Berrigan brothers were among the Baltimore
Four and the Catonsville Nine who destroyed draft
files instead of draft cards. More than a decade later, they and
six others broke into a General Electric nuclear missile plant,
dented nose cones with hammers and poured bloodtheir ownonto
the deadly weapons in the service of fulfilling the Old Testament
prophecy that one day humanity will beat their swords into
plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Resistance was bred in the Berrigans
bones. Born in Two Harbors, MN, in 1923, Philip Berrigan was the
last of the six sons of German immigrant Frida Fromhart Berrigan
and railroad engineer, labor organizer and radical Thomas F. Berrigan.
The family moved to Syracuse, NY, in Philips childhood, and
he went to school there and played semiprofessional baseball before
being drafted in 1943.
Basic training in Georgia honed his consciousness
of racial injustice in his homeland; combat in Europe gave him his
lifelong opposition to violence (although he came out of the war
a second lieutenant). His older brother Daniel had joined the Jesuits
at 21 and been ordained in 1952; some combination of those experiences
led Philip to ordination as a Josephite priest in 1955.
From the beginning, his clerical career was
turbulent. No matter where the church sent himto the poverty-stricken
Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC, to an all-Black high school
in New Orleans, to another poor community in Baltimoreand
over the hierarchys increasing objections, he inveighed against
poverty, segregation and injustice: In 1962, he published the first
of many books, The Catholic Church and the Negro.
He didnt stop with criticizing social
ills; he resisted them. He was arrested for the first time during
a civil rights demonstration in Selma, AL, and as the decade wore
on, he joined the growing opposition to the escalating war in Vietnam.
In the mid-60s he founded a Peace Mission in Baltimore, the
city that had become his home and would be for the rest of his life.
In 1966, he joined pickets in front of the homes of Secretary of
Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk.
Sabotaging the Draft
But protest, whether in print or on the streets,
didnt appear to be stopping the war; on the contrary, its
scope and impact were widening. U.S. soldiers were dying by the
thousands, Vietnamese by the tens of thousands. Some of the nations
youth were advocating armed resistance, and the Berrigans, ever
committed to unarmed resistance, nevertheless felt the need to go
further than they had up until then.
On October 17,
1967, Phil and Dan and their friends Tom Lewis and Dave Eberhardt
(the Baltimore Four) committed the first of what became
a series of daring break-ins, entering the Baltimore Selective Service
office and pouring their own blood on a number of draft files. Exactly
seven months later, on May 17, 1968, the Catonsville NinePhil,
Dan and Tom Lewis, along with their associates David Darst, Thomas
Melville, Marjorie Melville, Mary Moylan, George Mische and John
Hoganwalked into the Selective Service office in nearby Catonsville,
MD, seized some files, carried them out into the parking lot and
burned them with a home-made version of napalm, the jellied gasoline
that was being used to such deadly effect in Vietnam. Phil, Dan
and Tom were in the middle of their trial for the Baltimore action.
The Baltimore Four and the Catonsville Nine
were convicted. Phil and Dan received concurrent three-and-a-half-
and six-year prison sentences. But the system moved slowly; it was
not until the spring of 1970 that the sentences were due to take
effect, and by that time, Phil had published another book, A Punishment
for Peace, and committed yet another kind of disobedience: He had
fallen in love with, and secretly married, a nun, Elizabeth McAlister.
In the spring of 1970, the brothers decided
not to cooperate with the sentences and went underground, but were
soon capturedPhil in April, Dan in August. They had become
famous as symbols of the nations opposition to the war; in
1971, they appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.
While in prison, Phil corresponded with Liz
through an intermediary to elude the prison censors, but the ploy
failed, and the letters were read. The authorities werent
interested in his love life, but the political content resulted
in yet another trial, this time for conspiracy to commit various
acts of illegal resistance including kidnaping Henry Kissinger.
That trial, in 1972, resulted in one of Phils few acquittals.
Upon Phils parole in 1973, he and Liz
were married in a formal ceremony; the church responded by excommunicating
both of them. They settled in Baltimore, founded the intentional
community Jonah House and began constructing what was, for them,
a normal domestic life: They wrote, organized and had childrenFrida
in 1974, Jerry in 1975 and Kate in 1981.
Nose Cones into Plowshares
But before Kates birth, Phil and Dan
had come up with their second innovation in resistance. In September
of 1980, the Plowshares Eight (the Berrigan brothers,
WRLs Elmer Maas, Dean Hammer, Father Carl Kabat, Sister Anne
Montgomery, Molly Rush and John Schuchardt) entered the General
Electric plant in King of Prussia, PA, and symbolically disarmed
two nose conesbeating them, they said, into plowshares. At
their trial, the eight attempted to introduce a necessity
defense, arguing that the action was necessary to save lives. The
judge told them, Nuclear warfare is not on trial here; you
are. He sentenced the eight to prison terms of five to 10
years. (The sentences were later reduced on appeal.)
The Plowshares concept had critics within
the peace movement as well as outside of it. There are pacifists
who believe that the destruction of propertyeven such property
as nuclear weaponsis not nonviolent. Plowshares activists,
on the other hand, urge that such weapons ought not to exist in
the first place. Over the two decades after the symbolic disarmament
in King of Prussia, Phil Berrigan would engage in five more Plowshares
actions and serve a total of 11 years in prison; Liz participated
in one in 1983 and served 26 months.
Between prison sentences, they published
more books, including Phils Whereupon to Stand: The Acts of
the Apostles and Ourselves in 1993; his and Liz The Times
Discipline: The Beatitudes and Nuclear Resistance the same year;
Phils autobiography, Fighting the Lambs War, in 1996.
In 1999, Phil participated in the Plowshares
vs. Depleted Uranium action in Middle River, MD. The next year,
at the age of 76, he was convicted of malicious destruction of property
and conspiracy to maliciously destroy property. He was sentenced
to 30 months in prison.
It was his last Plowshares action. Four months
after his final release from prison in December, 2001, he broke
his left arm in a fall, and his health began to fail. In October
of last year he was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. He died
two months later, as he had lived: surrounded by friends, family
and comrades, talking peace and politics to the last. His family
rode to his funeral in the pickup truck that carried the casket,
with hundreds of people carrying peace signs and flowers following
on foot behind it. His daughters Frida and Kate delivered the eulogy.
To date, some 175 people across the globe have committed about 80
Longtime journalist and writer Judith
Mahoney Pasternak is the editor of the Nonviolent Activist.
In a world racked
by terrorism and violence, it is appropriate that we commemorate
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of love and nonviolence.
It is also fitting that while remembering
his relentless fight for equality and justice, we mull the wellsprings
of his philosophy that changed the face of this nation.
Initially, King believed that becoming a
minister of the church would be the best way to lead his people
to equality and freedom.
During a period of soul-searching, he had,
in his words, "despaired of the power of love in solving social
problems." At this point, he was coincidentally introduced
to the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi in a sermon by Mordecai Johnson,
president of Howard University, who had just returned from a trip
King was so moved that he immediately bought
a number of books on the Indian nationalist leader. He read with
fascination of the life of one who had successfully transformed
the ethic of nonviolence into a political instrument against British
The impact they made on him is best described
in his own words: "As I read, I became deeply fascinated by
his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. As I delved deeper into
the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of
love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time
its potency in the area of social reform."
"The 'turn-the-other-cheek' philosophy
and the 'love-your-enemies' philosophy," he went on, "were
only valid when individuals were in conflict with other individuals;
when racial groups and nations were in conflict, a more realistic
approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly
mistaken I was."
King came to realize that Gandhi was the
first person in history to re- invent the Christian ethic of love
as a "a potent instrument for social and collective transformation."
It was a short journey thereafter to unreserved acceptance of the
Gandhian technique of nonviolence as the only viable means to overcome
the problems faced by his people.
After completion of his theological studies,
it was once again by chance that King had his first opportunity
to test his newfound theories of love and nonviolence. Following
the well-known Montgomery bus incident -- in which Rosa Parks was
arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man -- King
helped organize within 24 hours a complete boycott of the buses,
which lasted for more than a year until, on Nov. 13, 1956, the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional,
vindicating his cause --and more important, the philosophy behind
"The experience in Montgomery,"
he was to explain later, "did more to clarify my thinking in
regard to the question of nonviolence than all the books I had read.
Nonviolence became more than a method to which I gave intellectual
assent; it became a commitment to a way of life."
The Montgomery campaign had not only united
his people but also stirred the conscience of the country. From
then on, the civil rights movement gained momentum under his leadership,
leading from one victory to another.
King was to explain later the rationale and
evolution of his thinking. "It was the Sermon on the Mount,
rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired
the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action -- (and) to
protest with the creative weapon of love."
He added: "As the days unfolded, however,
the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method
of nonviolence, was one of the most potent weapons available to
the Negro in his struggle for freedom."
Today, freedom remains in peril in many parts
of the world. The anniversary of King's birth is an occasion to
reflect on the seemingly impossible challenges he faced in his time,
and whether our current condition can be alleviated by adapting
Placido P. D'Souza is a former ambassador
from India now working as a visiting journalist in the East Bay.
"I would say that I'm a nonviolent soldier.
In place of weapons of violence, you have to use your mind, your
heart, your sense of humor, every faculty available to you.... --Joan Baez
women on the move!
Ijaw vs. Chevron: Women
to the rescue
Lagos, Nigeria, August 2, 2002
When dialogue fails, parties resort
to war. This is the situation that Chevron Nigeria Limited has
suddenly found itself in as Itsekiri and Ijaw women of the Niger
Delta have openly declared war on the American oil company.
The setting looked like one that was masterly
scripted by Hollywood producers/directors. Only that this was
for real. The scene was the river-rine area of the oil-producing
Niger Delta region. The actors were Ijaw women, 'directed' by
stern looking ten women-leaders.
As night fell on Monday July 15, the women
had six speedboats and carefully anchored them in readiness for
an undisclosed mission.
At the dawn of the next day (Tuesday July
16) the women numbered 1,500 and drawn from ten Ijaw communities
of the Gbaramatu and Egbema Kingdoms, filed out in groups for
a trip that was to set a new dawn in relationship between oil
producing companies and their host communities.
For about two hours later, they stormed
four oil flowstations namely, Abiteye, Maraba/Otunana, Dibi and
Olero Creek, operated by Chevron on behalf of the NNPC/Chevron
Joint Venture. Thus began the drama that would last for 11 days.
"There was no warning signals from
the women to anyone, not even the paramount rulers, community
leaders or opinion leaders", said Chief Wellington Okirika,
the traditional Prime Minister of the Gbaramatu Kingdom.
Indeed as THISDAY checks revealed, co-ordinating
the invasion of the flowstation had been one that was carefully
marshalled by four of the Ijaw women leaders, Chief (Mrs) Josephine
Ogoba, Mrs Esther Bubor, Madam Fanti Wariyai and Madam Mary Olaye,
who used the Global System Mobile telephone (GSM) to their fullest
According to Madam Wariyai, the women decided
not to inform anyone, not even their leaders for fear of 'sabotage'.
On the flowstations, the women distributed
themselves into groups of 400 on each flowstation handed by a
'Platoon Commander', wherein they then ordered all oil workers
and security details to vacate the facility. Perhaps, giving credence
to the imense power of women, the officials heeded their command
without any opposition.
Thus, a total of 110,000 barrels per day
(bpd) of oil was shut in, resulting in huge loss of income for
Chevron and Nigeria.
Nigerian women end protests
at ChevronTexaco facilities
July 26, 2002
By D'Arcy Doran, Associated Press Writer
LAGOS, Nigeria Village women chanted
jubilantly Thursday as they ended their weeklong occupation of
a series of ChevronTexaco oil pipeline stations in exchange for
jobs, a micro-credit plan, schools and hospitals.
Hundreds of women left the captured flowstations
in canoes and on foot after protest leaders signed an agreement
with company executives late Wednesday, both sides said.
"History has been made," said
Esther Tolar, a spokeswoman for the protesters. "Our culture
is a patriarchal society. For women to come out like this and
achieve what we have is out of the ordinary."
After more than eight days of protest, 600 unarmed Nigerian women
who took over ChevronTexacos Escravos oil terminal agreed
today to end their siege after the company offered to hire at
least 25 villagers and to build schools, electrical and water
systems. Early last week, the women occupied the terminal and
held 700 workers inside to demand that the corporation provide
their oil-rich community with jobs and infrastructure development.
The women plan to wait until the verbal agreement is put in writing
and signed before they withdraw from the facility in southeastern
The protest organized by women between 30 and 90 years
of age has been peaceful. As a show of good faith,
the women released 200 workers on Sunday. However, they have threatened
nudity, a tribal shaming gesture against ChevronTexaco and its
workers, if their demands go unmet.
spate of communal protests directed against Chevron Nigeria Limited
shifted yesterday to Ekpan, near Warri in Delta State, as a multitude
of women sealed up the operational base of the oil conglomerate
demanding for jobs for the people of the community.
Over a thousand women
defied the early morning heavy downpour to take part in the protest
that saw them barricading the gates of the company.
The Ekpan women had
actually issued an ultimatum to Chevron last week, threatening
to storm the company's base located along the Nigeria Ports Authority
(NPA) Expressway, Warri, if it failed to meet a set of demands.
The ultimatum expired on Monday.
We are either
going to have a democracy in this country or an imperial presidency
rushing headlong down the path of global domination.
And unless we ordinary people mobilize
to stop this rush toward war and the undermining of our constitutional
rights, the generations to follow will judge us harshly for our
failure. History will record that the tragedy of our age was not
only the aggression and violence of those who would wage war for
the prize of oil, but the silence and apathy of us good people
who lacked the courage to speak out and stand up to this administration
hellbent on plunging the world into darkness.
We are here tonight to light a candle against
the darkness. To cry out, "Not in our name!" But that
alone is not enough. Spirituality alone, without political activism,
is lame. And political activism without spirituality is blind.
We must yoke the two into a powerful movement of conscience and
commitment to create a world of love and caring, of peace and
freedom, of economic justice and reverence for our sacred Earth.
is a psychotherapist living in Fairfax, California, and a member
of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Social Justice Center of Marin
and the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition.
If you are
a decision-maker or opinion-molder in a position to act on the
creative idea presented here, you are earnestly urged to read
on. Nine million desperate Palestinians and Israelis will thank
you for taking the time. The paper introduces a concept called
"parallel sovereignty"--an innovative ultramodern paradigm
for resolving the longstanding sociopolitical impasse in Israel/Palestine.
Oslo advocates may find it attractive because it could be termed
a "post- quantum-physics two-state solution," and Oslo
opponents may find it attractive because in this scenario, believe
it or not, Greater Israel and Greater Palestine both emerge intact.
* * *
The conflict between Palestine and Israel,
between Arab and Jew, goes back a very long way--over a hundred
years in its present form (and a lot longer, if you go back to
Sarah, Hagar and Abraham).
In our time, at least, all the usual approaches
to resolving this conflict share one basic dynamic: Let us call
it "peeling the onion of blame." We take the conflict
in its most current incarnation and peel away a layer, looking
for who is to blame, and why and how--and as the first layer of
the onion is peeled away, we are all weeping, because the facts
are tragic, our situation is tragic, and the history of this conflict
is a history of tragedy.
When that first layer has been peeled away,
someone who doesn't like the answer that has just emerged, and
who feels that the finger of blame should be pointed elsewhere,
goes ahead and peels away another layer, and someone else peels
another, and so on. Some of the best minds on both sides of the
aisle are engaged full-time in this dead-end endeavor. Meanwhile,
more innocents have been killed and injured, more youngsters turned
into killing machines, more lives and more families blighted,
and there's no resolution in sight. And we continue to weep.
Indeed the end of each such exercise is
that, when all the layers are peeled away, and blame has been
cast in every direction, and an ocean of tears has been wept,
the conflict is still not resolved--but of the onion, and all
our efforts, all that remains is compost.
Only an entirely new approach that embraces
a new conceptual framework, a fundamentally different perspective,
can possibly bring a long-term resolution. Conceptually, the new
approach, if it is to be effective, cannot revolve around apportioning
blame. If we want to get anywhere worthwhile, we have to let go
of the onion of blame. Let us agree that we are all to blame,
or that none of us is really to blame, and move on.
RELINQUISHING THE CURRENT DYNAMIC
All rational Israelis and Palestinians
and outside observers decry the present situation (October 2002)
of mutual bloodshed, economic collapse, and the implosion of both
societies. Leaders are sticking stubbornly with their present
course because they don't know of any better option (or, in the
worst case, because the current brutal path suits their ultimate
objectives in some way). The people have stuck with their present
leaders only because they don't know where to find any better
ones. Nobody seems to have a clue how to get out of the impasse.
Most analyses simply rehash, with greater or lesser eloquence
and increasing desperation, the same tired old arguments that
have not proven effective in the past and are unlikely to do so
in the future. The familiar two-state (Oslo) solution has become
like the proverbial water to which the thirsty horse can be led,
but which he cannot be made to drink.
What's needed right now
At a minimum, what's needed immediately
is either better leadership or a better plan (or both). A better
plan is the more urgent, because if there's a persuasive vision
of a better path to follow, leadership will galvanize around its
electoral value--whereas replacing the leadership will not automatically
produce better options.
A profile of the dynamic of change required
Look to the essential unity among the sane,
rational majority on both sides. The moderate rational public
(both Palestinians and Israelis) are actually all on the same
side in this game--i.e., in favor of a rational, reasonable solution
and against winner-take-all, coercive non-solutions. Many people
already realize this, though the media tend to ignore them; and
the momentum will snowball, given the right catalyst.
Harness youthful energy. The process of
revisioning our future requires participation by young people
in as visible and massive a way as possible, because they can
make or break the process and they are now very radicalized and
confused and angry (on both sides). Let them help to fashion a
more constructive future for themselves by providing an option
that speaks in a language young people can embrace.
Provide a charismatic, marketable, intellectually
solid alternative. It's still not too late... if we can offer
an interesting new alternative that gets the ball rolling again,
an idea that stimulates discussion and gets people moving together
in a creative new direction. This new alternative should be simple,
vivid, and highly "marketable"; it should "re-brand"
the idea of peace, so to speak, yet be based on respectable intellectual
Potential problems (to be avoided)
Certain obvious pitfalls must be carefully
A religious veto: Avoid a program that
religiously observant people cannot sign on for. Make sure the
basic conception is religiously acceptable, and bring religious
figures on board early.
Political brain death: Avoid a program
that blames a specific political party, sector, or constituency
for the current mess, or that deals them out of the solution.
We are all responsible for having got to where we are now. As
for the future, "peace" and "security" and
"national honor" are no one's exclusive property; they
belong to everyone.
Moral collapse: The program must unequivocally
put its foot down, once and for all: No more grabbing of what
belongs to others; no excuses. No more killing and mayhem; no
excuses. (Nearly everyone will agree to this if the process gets
cooking well enough; the tiny minority of true fanatics on both
sides will then be increasingly isolated.)
THE NEW ALTERNATIVE
Human beings are patterning organisms.
Cultures are collectively patterned entities. Hostilities like
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are complex, evolved, dysfunctional
patterns. Re-patterning on such a profound cultural level typically
takes a very long time. Arguably, however, the process can be
short-circuited; chaos theory, for example, supports this possibility.
Harnessing the dynamic for a sudden and
rapid repatterning requires (a) a visionary new idea which, by
definition, will be totally unfamiliar and which therefore, initially
at least, may be hard to grasp and may appear unworkable, and
(b) some way to help people plug the strange new idea into their
existing conceptual grasp of reality so as to make it less fearsome
and easier to get a grip on: one simple, persuasive analogy will
The visionary idea
The land of Israel/Palestine is actually
two parallel kingdoms, so to speak, in one territory. Instead
of repeatedly attempting to divide that territory in a way that
satisfies no one, why not multiply the territory into two simultaneous
parallel (virtual) sovereignties, both with precisely the same
boundaries, neither entity to be more legitimate than the other?
Let each side "win" what is dearest to its heart, but
not at the expense of the other side.
Greater Israel and Greater Palestine will
thus exist simultaneously, with identical boundaries, on the identical
How to plug the new idea into our present
Take the Microsoft Windows TM environment
as an analogy: With many programs open at once on the same personal
computer, none of them is any more valid than any other, and the
one in the forefront at any given time is determined by what the
user desires to accomplish at that point. (The old transparent
overlay maps that some of us used in school half a century ago
were based on the same idea, with a simpler technology.)
Any psychologist will agree that quality
of life--our subjective, experiential reality--is determined largely
by a process of selective attention. Dr. Richard Merrill Haney,
a Canadian psychologist, has gone farther, positing a holographic,
multiple-realities conception of the human psyche as a spectrum
(in contrast to the relatively rigid, dichotomous Freudian model
of a conscious and an unconscious, period): While the old model
of the psyche is more like a typewriter (on/off), Haney's conception
is more like Windows on a PC, or a multiplex theater. This same
evolving impulse is animating new thinking in many disciplines,
and the old "my way, or not at all" is giving ground
before a much more flexible, postmodern approach. What the new
paradigm proposed herein seeks to do is to take this evolving
perspective and apply it in a field with unique challenges: geopolitics.
Who says it has to be the way it's always
Nowhere is it written that there must necessarily
be a 1:1 ratio between a given sovereign nation and a given land
area. It's a longstanding assumption, but it's not a law of nature.
If we so choose, we can dispense with "exclusive sovereignty"
in favor of "non-exclusive sovereignty" or "parallel
sovereignty." Physicists have speculated for half a century
about the existence of parallel universes (the first published
reference to the idea in the literature of physics goes back to
the 1950s); meanwhile, in terms of how people subjectively view
the world, parallel universes clearly exist. (Ask any Israeli
what this place is and be told: Israel; ask any Palestinian and
be told: Palestine.) Rather than struggling to unify the two by
force, or amputate various parts and expect the people concerned
to like it, let us simply acknowledge the existence of the two
realities. Let them exist in parallel, on a basis of absolute
formal equality, creating massive new synergies.
In this new paradigm, each of the parallel
nations of Israel/Palestine will have its own flag, anthem, government,
institutions, tax structure, membership in the United Nations,
etc. Military questions are in a class by themselves, and will
not be easy to resolve, but the first principle is that the armed
forces must be clearly subordinate to civil authority. Decisions
that affect foreign entities (treaty regimes, etc.) will be coordinated
between the two nations.
Consider the advantages
One supreme advantage of the idea is that,
having adopted it, reasonable and moderate people from each of
the two warring nations can thereafter think of themselves as
being on the same side, in the framework of this novel and creative
solution. Another advantage is that the mirror-image symmetry
in legitimacy puts Palestinians and Israelis on a truly equal
footing for the first time: My stature is only as tall as yours
and vice versa; the incentive to score at the other's expense
is dramatically reduced. A further advantage is that the claims
of classical religious sources are not rudely contradicted, but
rather courteously and respectfully outflanked: Who would dare
imply that the prophets of old, had they been alive today and
given the opportunity to learn what contemporary physics is learning
about the world, would have failed to welcome the great goodness
that the parallel universes concept bestows on all the people
of this region?
All these advantages greatly simplify the
task of addressing the admittedly thorny practical problems on
Use teamwork to address all practical issues
on the agenda
Concrete issues on the ground will be resolved
by multidisciplinary, mixed Jewish-Arab (perhaps multinational)
teams of professionals. Who will live in such-and-such a house
in Jaffa for which a Jewish family holds a registered deed while
a Palestinian family still has the key to the old front door from
1948? How will refugee families be compensated? How will unequal
access to resources between Jewish and Arab citizens of Palestine/Israel
be redressed? How will manifestly illegal land grabs be rolled
back, and how far? Who will determine what "manifestly illegal"
is? How can a general amnesty be organized and declared, enabling
people to put down their weapons once and for all, with the release
of all political prisoners? Should there be a Truth and Reconciliation
Commission on the South African model?
And finally, how will the new paradigm
affect the people who don't fit into the obvious major categories
(e.g., the 1.1 million Palestinian- Arab citizens of the present
State of Israel; other ethnic/linguistic/religious minority citizens
and residents seeking secure and equal status; Israelis currently
living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza)? Some people
may prefer dual citizenship. Meanwhile, how can the very substantial
claims of the Palestinian Diaspora be addressed respectfully and
comprehensively, so as to build new and more positive outcomes?
How can the status of Jerusalem be addressed, not in terms of
who owns it or controls it (for a change), but rather in terms
of what's best for the city, its residents, its pilgrims, and
its many stakeholders around the world?
If you reread the foregoing paragraph,
you will notice a complete absence of incendiary buzzwords (Zionist,
right of return, racism, colonialism, terrorism, shaheed, etc.)
that long ago lost all utility except the power to strike fear
into the hearts of the listeners from the other camp. This should
be sufficient to prove that it is indeed possible to pursue a
constructive discussion about our future without reference to
the lexicon of instant mutual alienation and mistrust.
Why not try it?
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians
are searching desperately for a way out of the present bloody
impasse. A parallel sovereignty model may offer one. Even just
a lively public discussion of the merits of the idea can demonstrate
that there is still an alternative to the terrible suffering the
two sides have been inflicting on themselves and on one another
for lack of a clear way out.
As an added bonus, the idea itself almost
mandates a certain profile of the leaders who would be fit to
implement it in practice. At a minimum, they should certainly
be cyber-literate. Senior military figures should probably be
disqualified, for many reasons. Those two criteria together would
eliminate most of the present leadership on both sides, which
would perhaps be no bad thing.
"If we want to solve a problem that
we have never solved before," wrote physicist and Nobel laureate
Richard P. Feynman, "we must leave the door to the unknown
ajar." Indeed, we must leave it open wide enough for Palestinians
and Israelis to walk through it together into a better future.
If we get started right away, commentaries like this one that
are written about us ten years hence will laud our courage and
imagination, and will employ the word "tragedy" only
in reference to the past.
Let whoever is brave enough to step over
this threshold together, kindly stand and be counted... now.
Deb Reich is a creative thinker living
Write to her at email@example.com.
Copyright Deborah Reich 2002. Published 10/30/02 in CounterPunch.
A diverse crowd
of more than 20,000 women (4,000 according to Associated Press)
came from all over Colombia for a march and rally on July 25 in
the capital, Bogotá, to call for active nonviolent resistance
against war and demand a negotiated solution to the countrys
armed conflict. We dont want to bear children for war,
said Popular Womens Organization (OFP) President Yolanda Becerra.
The OFP was one of five national groups or coalitionsrepresenting
some 600 organizations from around the countrywhich convened
the National March of Women for Peace; the others were the Peaceful
Route of Women (Ruta Pacífica de Mujeres), the Womens
Initiative for Peace, the Womens Concertation Group (Mesa
de Concertación de Mujeres) and the National Womens
We women from various initiatives have
decided to put all our political determination and effort into pressuring
for the emergence of a new negotiation process that includes ethnic
groups, races, genders, generations, professions from all the social
classes and religions, those who live in the country and in the
cities; that is, a process that includes the diverse country that
we are, said Patricia Buriticá, a spokesperson for
the Womens Initiative for Peace and a member of the march
organizing committee. The marchers rejected a proposal by President-elect
Alvaro Uribe Vélez to arm a million civilians to act as a
sort of auxiliary military force. Participants also pledged to pay
no taxes for war. (El Espectador (Bogotá) 7/26/02; La Jornada
(Mexico) 7/26/02 from AFP; CNN en Español 7/26/02 from AP)
On July 21 thousands of people marched in
the Colombian cities of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and
Barranquilla as part of a day of civil resistance against the violence
of illegal armed groups, and in support of the mayors and other
public officials who have been threatened with assassination by
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) if they dont
resign their posts. The day against violence was organized by eccentric
Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus. (LJ 7/22/02 from AFP)
The secretariat of the FARCs general
staff issued a communiqué on July 9 giving its reasons for
demanding the resignation of all the countrys local officials,
and threatening them with death if they dont comply. After
a lengthy review of the origins of Colombias armed conflict,
the communiqué explains that the Colombian state has closed
off the route of dialogue, and therefore all the countrys
provincial, municipal and village officials are being targeted not
because of who they are as people, but rather because they represent
the state. (FARC Communiqué 7/9/02)
Bay Area organizations, backed by high-powered
corporate attorneys, are taking the lead in a growing movement that
uses U.S. courts to go after abusers of human rights worldwide.
Far from being just a rhetorical exercise,
the potential impact of the movement became clear three weeks ago,
when the Center for Justice and Accountability, based in San Francisco,
won a $54.6 million judgment against two former Salvadoran generals
living in Florida.
The ruling in favor of San Francisco high
school teacher Carlos Mauricio and two other Salvadorans, who were
tortured by security forces during El Salvador's civil war in the
early 1980s, was the movement's biggest legal victory to date.
By "we" I mean the hundreds of
thousands of people in this country who know that the old ways of
interacting with the world are not working any more. The people
who have ideas, commitment and knowledge to change things and are
disgusted with the lack of accountability in this administration
and sick at heart at the way killing
is routinely proclaimed as a solution to the world's problems.
Our leaders refuse to lead. The most
inspiring thing we hear these days is "be very afraid."
But we've always waited to be led, every four years choosing someone
we expect to define our vision, give substance to ourhopes, and
protect us from our fears. "If only we could find a real
leader," we're saying now, "we could become a force in
this country." We can't wait for that, and we don't need
A critical shift happened during the Clinton administration. A
collective will gathered against the power of Congress and the mainstream
press--against, in effect, all the things that we'd always let make
our decisions for us. And without taking to the streets or riots
or any use of force, that collective will made the decision for
the country. Something happened that hasn't yet caught up with our
collective consciousness: we stopped waiting to be led.
Last month I attended a book signing and discussion with environmental
activist/author Derrick Jensen sponsored by the Gaea Foundation
in Washington, D.C. The discussion facilitator asked us to consider
a quote from one of Jensen's books to the effect that he has learned
to embrace times of dissonance and confusion, because that is when
the seeds of change take root. The talk quickly became about "what
is happening in this country." There was a striking degree
of agreement on things that haven't been voiced in the mainstream
media or Congress. Everyone simply knew, for example, that we're
being manipulated by this administration. One person said it, and
another picked it up: "And do you get the feeling they're always
five steps ahead?" (You know it too, don't you? But how many
of the politicians and pundits have told you so?) Our power comes
back to us when we claim what we know. Seeds of change are taking
root in the wind, really just in the wind, born of individual spirits
who aren't needing the old grounds of media sanction or governmental
or religious leaders to guide them, are in fact having to stand
in opposition to them.
gone fully into our grieving after September 11 rather than
going to war,
a powerful transformation could have occurred."
The talent, passion and knowledge of true leadership are evident
everywhere in the grassroots movements. Just in the group of 20
or so at the Gaea meeting, there were: a white-haired woman who'd
spent her life protecting Colorado mountain trails; a 20-year-old
man in a business suit who quietly detailed the suffering of Iraqi
children as a result of sanctions; an environmentalist with vast
experience fighting the government's neglect and abuse of the earth;
a Smithsonian researcher who devises creative solutions to conflict;
and a young wise woman who pointed out that if we'd gone fully into
our grieving after September 11 rather than going to war, a powerful
transformation could have occurred. The evening opened my mind to
how many such people are among us, and how gifted, how strong, how--powerful.
One of the last to speak at the meeting was a shy young woman who
offered hesitantly that she wasn't quite sure what she was trying
to say, but (and her voice rose, her head lifted) we're all saying
that people are asleep, so it seems that those of us who are awake
must speak, must act! We have an obligation! As she found her words
and her courage, the power of it multiplied through the group. We
despair at the futility of our single raindrop, but forget about
the power of rain.
We already are our own leaders. That will become clearer as we
set our agenda and define our goals. We can no longer afford not
to be organized, not to be a force to be reckoned with. It will
help if we identify a common thread among our causes. A demand for
accountability--non-negotiable--would work for me. Accountability
to the earth; accountability to the people of this country; accountability
to the rest of the world.
A pendulum hangs still quivering, waiting for a breath to start
Linda O'Brien is a freelance writer living in Bethesda, Maryland
and welcome comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Six Twentieth Century campaigns for social
justice won with strategic nonviolent noncooperation are dramatically
depicted in the PBS documentary A Force More Powerful: A Century
of Nonviolent Conflict.
The 1930 Salt March in western India,
led by Mohandas Gandhi, father of nonviolent civil disobedience,
challenged the British monopoly and tax on salt. Gandhi led Indians
on a 240 mile walk to the ocean to collect salt. It led to a wave
of strategic boycotts and noncooperation which undermined British
rule and eventually led to India's independence.
The 1960 Nashville, Tennessee campaign
to integrate lunch counters was begun by students at American
Baptist College, trained by Rev. James Lawson, Jr. His intensive
workshops on non-violent resistance drove the sit-ins and boycotts
that ultimately ended segregation in public places. Tactics included
sitting at lunch counters in spite of nonservice, doing their
homework until proprietors closed shop without earning money,
being arrested in waves that choked jail and court facilities.
The 1985 Port Elizabeth, South Africa
boycott of white-owned businesses, led by Mkhuseli Jack, spread
throughout the Eastern Cape Province. The devastating consumer
boycotts of the next several years by black township residents
awakened whites to black Africans' grievances and weakened business
support of apartheid, ultimately leading to its defeat.
The World War II noncooperation
of Denmark's citizens during the Nazi occupation undermined Nazi
attempts to exploit Denmark for war supplies and labor. In addition
to sabotage and tactics such as working at half speed and leaving
work early en masse to go home to water their gardens, the Danes'
underground resistance saved all but a few hundred of Denmark's
7,000 Jews from the Holocaust.
The 1980 Gdansk Shipyard strike,
headed by Lech Walesa, won Poles the right to organize free trade
unions. Before calling the strike and before their would-be isolation
by Communist Party cutting of power lines, they alerted workers
in other cities, and locked themselves into the shipyard to avoid
being provoked and arrested by authorities. It launched the Solidarity
movement reaching to 10 million strong which led to the fall of
communism in Poland.
The 1983 national days of protest
led by Chilean copper miners showed that public opposition to
the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet was possible. Brutally
suppressed, opposition forces persisted and eventually removed
Pinochet's military government in a 1988 referendum.--For more
information, see www.aeinstein.org.Other
The 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus
boycott --led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a student of Gandhian
nonviolence-- began with a simple act of resistance by Rosa Parks,
who refused to give up her seat to a white man. Following her
arrest, forty thousand flyers were distributed throughout the
African American community. Churches became rallying points. Once
the boycott began, African Americans endured harassment and hostility
as they walked, pooled rides, rode bicycles to and from work.
They remained steadfast when the homes of Dr. King and E.D. Nixon
of the NAACP were bombed. A year later segregation on public buses
ended when the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.
Beginning in 1965, California farm
workers --led by Cezar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers
union-- engaged the public in a series of boycotts against large
growers and gained historic achievements. Among them are: The
first union contracts requiring rest periods, clean drinking water,
hand washing facilities, protective clothing against pesticide
exposure, banning pesticide spraying while workers are in the
fields, outlawing dangerous pesticides, and guaranteeing farm
workers seniority rights and job security. The first comprehensive
union health benefits for farm workers and their families through
the UFW's Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan; the first and only performing
pension plan for retired farm workers--the Juan de la Cruz Pension
Plan, and the first functioning credit union for farm workers.
On the thirtieth
anniversary of Watergate, one of the greatest whistleblowers in
US history recalls
Daniel Ellsberg, former defense and
state department official who revealed the Pentagon Papers 30 years
ago. He is author of the book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam
and the Pentagon Papers, forthcoming from Viking
press in October.
30 years ago ... on the morning of June 17th,
1972, Washington police answered a call at the Watergate office
complex and found five men burglarizing the office of the Democratic
National Committee. The burglars had been hired by staff members
of the committee to re-elect the President (known as Creep). That
was President Richard Nixon. That day was the beginning of the Watergate
scandal. Two years later, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency
Ellsberg worked as an analyst at the Department
of Defense. He went public with the classified documents known as
the Pentagon Papers during that time. The Pentagon Papers were a
7,000-page study of America's 30-year involvement in Indochina that
led to the Vietnam War. The Pentagon-commissioned report revealed
a massive government cover-up.
After the Times published the classified
documents on June 13, 1971, the Nixon Justice Department responded
quickly and furiously. Just after the third installment was published,
the Justice Department secured a restraining order preventing further
installments from being printed. Within two weeks, the Supreme Court
ruled that the government had not shown compelling evidence to justify
Ellsberg was charged with espionage, theft
and conspiracy for leaking the papers. But the charges against him
were eventually dropped by a federal judge, who wrote that a pattern
of "gross government misconduct" was so appalling that
the administration's retaliatory actions "offend the sense
Diane Nash was a black student leader
in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She participated in student
sit-ins and Freedom Rides and was an instrumental member of the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as well as the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference.
EC: What was your most memorable experience
as a student activist?
DN: One was the Selma movement. It was important because my involvement
began the day that the four girls were killed in Birmingham, Alabama
[Sept. 15, 1963].
Jim Bevel and I were determined not to just
let the children be murdered. So that day, we drafted the basic
strategy for what became the Selma "Right to Vote" movement
and we worked with it until its conclusion and were successful in
getting the right to vote in Alabama for blacks.
It was a highlight because it was an experience
where we took a very negative, devastating event and caused something
good and important to come out of it. The girls getting killed was
awful, but what would have been even worse was if some good for
a lot of people hadn't come out of it.
It was an experience working from an initial
concept to its conclusion. At the end of that Dr. King presented
Jim Bevel and me with SCLC's [Southern Christian Leadership Conference]
highest award for that year which was the Rosa Parks Award. It was
the year 1965.
Another one ... being involved with the nonviolent
workshops that Jim Lawson was conducting in Nashville, Tennessee.
Jim Lawson had been to India and had studied Gandhi's movement directly.
He was also a Conscientious Objector and he had been to federal
prison for refusing to go the Korean War. So he was very well versed
in the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence.
I went to weekly workshops that he was conducting
over a period of months and I got a very good grounding in the philosophy
and strategy. It has made just a major difference in my life because
I also use the principles that I learned in those workshops in many
areas of my life.
You can use nonviolence as a tactic or as
a way of life. I was using it as a tactic first but I came to understand
it more and more deeply through action and through seeing how successful
and powerful it is and I use it [now] as a way of life.
EC: What factors contributed to the decline of student activism?
DN: The people that really control this country went to work.
There were hundreds of thousands of young
Americans marching and working to exert appropriate amounts of control
over what was done. For young Americans to exert an appropriate
amount of control would mean less power for the people who are making
the decisions now. And I think that fact did not escape them.
They went to work in a lot of different ways.
There was a gigantic public relations campaign in magazines and
newspapers that said that being a person who really loved other
people and cared about not killing people -- that there was something
wrong with that. Being a flower child and a hippie and all these
negative things were applied to that. There was a period where they
said that young people coming along in the '70s are getting smart.
They're more stable. They're interested in being businessmen and
making money. So there was a giant p.r. [public relations] campaign.
Drugs were introduced into the society in order to space people
out and make them less conscious and less capable of working efficiently
A number of assassinations were carried out.
People who held great potential for leadership. Malcolm X ... Dr.
Organizations were infiltrated and undermined.
There were massive things like wiretaps and opening people's mail.
There was just a tremendous onslaught from
people who exert power. Right now, American citizens do not see
ourselves as rulers of this country. In a democracy, the people
are supposed to rule.
Not many of us have made a decision to deindustrialize
the country. We're not the ones deciding to send jobs overseas.
We're not the ones deciding to lower the standard of living in this
No one's asked me or my parents or grandparents
how to distribute housing. We are not making the decisions about
American citizens had better begin to see
themselves as rulers of this country if we are going to have democracy.
The main mistake that people
make who want to make social change is that they never
get around to actually acting.
EC: What were the major successes and limitations
of the movement?
DN: There's no question that we in the movement set goals and reached
In Nashville, for example, we set a goal
of desegregating six lunch counters and restaurants first. We reached
that and we set a goal for six counters and reached that. And interstate
bus travel and voting rights and other public accommodations.
Public accommodations definitely were desegregated.
Getting the extensive conversation about race in the country was
achieved. Voting and a marked increase in black elected officials.
Clearly the movement did not achieve many
things economically. I have heard a lot of younger people criticize
the movement for that. They blame integration for there once having
been many black businesses and there now being many fewer.
It's a mistake to expect anyone to accomplish
everything. During a given period of time life is really very dynamic.
Every individual and every generation is presented with the challenge
of creating a better society. So the economic things which we did
not achieve, are not because of the movement of the '60s. It's because
of so much inaction since. It therefore falls to the people who
think that's important to do.
EC: What advice to you have for student activist
DN: Notice that the nonviolent strategies were very efficient given
the number of people who were injured or killed, and understand
that even one injured or killed is serious and far too many. But
there were relatively few casualties and a lot was achieved.
People should study how to practice nonviolence.
Study what you need to know about the issue you want to change.
Doing the best you can in terms of working out a plan of action
and then do it.
You are going to make mistakes but when you
make a mistake go back to the drawing board and correct it. Trust
The main mistake that people make who want
to make social change is that they never get around to actually
The first comprehensive
history of the role of women in the civil rights movement, Freedom's
Daughters fills a startling gap in both the literature of civil
rights and women's history.
Stokely Carmicheal, Andrew Young, John Lewis, and
other well-known leaders of the civil rights movement have admitted that
women often had the ideas for which men took credit. In this ground-breaking
book, credit finally goes where credit is due--to the bold women who were
crucial to the movement's success and who refused to give up the fight.
From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom
Rides, Lynn Olson's Freedom's Daughters offers a remarkable
corrective to the standard history as she tells the long overlooked story
of the extraordinary women, both black and white, who were among the most
fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement.
Fannie Lou Hamer
(excerpts from God's Long Summer -- Stories of Faith and Civil Rights
by Charles Marsh)
Rough times would
not end with the coming of warm weather. In the summer of 1963, Mrs. Hamer
was invited by Annelle Ponder, the SCLC field secretary in the Delta town
of Greenwood, to attend the organization's citizenship school in South
Carolina. Seven black Mississippians were chosen for the long bus ride
to Charleston, where they were led by well-known civil rights activist
Septima Clark in training sessions on voter registration. A week later,
on June 9, near the end of the all-night ride home from South Carolina,
the Continental Trailwaysbus stopped in Winona, Mississippi. When members
of the group sat down at the lunch counter and asked to be served, several
Winona policemen and highway patrolmen entered the station and forced
them to leave. (As in much of the South, town officials had not accepted
the ruling of the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawing segregated
transportation facilities.) Once outside, Annelle Ponder made a point
of writing down the license number of one of the patrol cars, so infuriating
a police officer that he began arresting everyone in sight. Mrs. Hamer
had returned to the bus because her left leg, disfigured from polio as
a child, was sore from the strenuous week. But when she saw the officers
herding her companions into police cars, she came out and asked Ponder
what the folks left on the bus should do. Should they drive on to Greenwood
or wait at the station? Before her friend could answer, an officer in
one of the police cars noticed Mrs. Hamer and shouted to a colleague,
"Get that one there, bring her on down in the other car!" Mrs.
Hamer was then shoved into the back seat, kicked in the thigh, and cursed
repeatedly on the drive to the jail. "They carried us on to the county
jail. It wasn't the city jail, [but] the county jail, so we could be far
enough out. [They] didn't care how loud we hollered, wasn't nobody gon'
hear us.... When we got to the jail they started beatin' the man--his
name was James West--and they put us in cells, two to a cell, and I could
hear all this hollerin' and goin' on. Then they took Miss Ponder. I could
hear these awful sounds and licks and screams, hear her body hit the concrete,
and this man was yellin', `Cain't you say yes sir, you nigger bitch?'"
Each time that Annelle Ponder refused to say "yes sir" to the
police officers, the swing of the blackjack was harder. Mrs. Hamer heard
the sounds from her cell down the hall. "She kept screamin', and
they kept beatin' on her, and finally she started prayin' for 'em, and
she asked God to have mercy on 'em, because they didn't know what they
was doin'.... I don't know how long it lasted before I saw Annelle Ponder
passing the cell with both her hands up. Her eyes looked like blood, and
her mouth was swollen. Her clothes were torn. It was horrifying."
June Johnson, a fifteen-year-old black teenager
who had attended the voter registration workshop, was the next person
led by Mrs. Hamer's cell in this grim parade of tortured bodies. "The
blood was runnin' down in her face, and they put her in another cell."
In the booking room, whence Johnson was coming, the sheriff had pulled
the young girl aside for his own personal whipping. He asked her whether
she was a member of the NAACP. She told him yes. Then he hit her on the
cheek and chin, and when she raised her arms to protect herself, he hit
her on the stomach. He continued to ask her questions about the NAACP--"who
runs that thing?" "do you know Martin Luther King?" Soon
the four men in the room--the sheriff, the chief of police, the highway
patrolman, and another white man--threw Johnson onto the floor, beat her,
and stomped on her body in concert. The men ripped Johnson's dress and
tore her slip off; blood soaked her tattered clothes.
The men came next for Mrs. Hamer. "Get up
from there, fatso," one of the policemen barked. When the officers
confirmed that this was Fannie Lou Hamer from Ruleville--the same woman
stirring up trouble in the Delta--they began to revile her with insulting
words. "I have never heard that many names called a human in my life,"
she said later. "You, bitch, we gon' make you wish you was dead,"
an officer said, as he brought two black inmates into the bullpen to carry
out his ghastly design for torture. Mrs. Hamer asked them, "You mean
you would do this to your own race?" But an officer quickly warned
the men, "If you don't beat her, you know what we'll do to you."
Mrs. Hamer recalled, "So they had me lay down on my face, and they
beat with a thick leather thing that was wide. And it had sumpin' in it
heavy. I don't know what that was, rocks or lead. But everytime they hit
me, I got just as hard, and I put my hands behind my back, and they beat
me in my hands 'til my hands ... was as navy blue as anything you ever
seen." She tried to put her hands over the leg that was damaged from
polio, but this only made her hands vulnerable to the beating. When the
first inmate grew exhausted, the blackjack was passed to the second inmate.
"That's when I started screaming and working my feet `cause I couldn't
help it." One of the white officers became so enraged when he heard
Mrs. Hamer's cries that "he just run there and started hittin' me
on the back of my head." The torture became more brutal. "I
remember I tried to smooth my dress which was working up from all the
beating. One of the white officers pushed my dress up. I was screaming
and going on--and the young officer with the crew cut began to beat me
about [the] head and told me to stop my screaming. I then began to bury
my head in the mattress and hugged it to kill out the sound of my screams."
By the end, the flesh of her beaten body was hard, one of her kidneys
was permanently damaged, and a blood clot that formed over her left eye
threatened her vision. "They finally told me to get up, and I just
couldn't hardly get up, and they kept on tellin' me to get up. I finally
could get up, but when I got back to my cell bed, I couldn't set down.
I would scream. It hurted me to set down." Back in her dark cell,
Mrs. Hamer was left alone to bear the physical and spiritual effects of
But then the next day something happened that slowly
transformed the killing despair of the jail and dispersed the power of
death. "When you're in a brick cell, locked up, and haven't done
anything to anybody but still you're locked up there, well sometimes words
just begin to come to you and you begin to sing," she said. Song
broke free. Mrs. Hamer sang:
Paul and Silas was bound in jail, let my people
Had no money for to go their bail, let my people go.
Paul and Silas began to shout, let my people go.
Jail doors open and they walked out, let my people go.
"Singing brings out the soul," she said.
And at Winona, singing brought out the soul of the black struggle for
freedom, for Mrs. Hamer did not sing alone. Sitting in their cells down
the hall, June Johnson, Annelle Ponder, Euvester Simpson, and Lawrence
Guyot joined her in song. Church broke out, empowering them to "stay
on `the Gospel train' until it reaches the Kingdom."
Mrs. Hamer "really suffered in that jail from
that beating," June Johnson said. The physical and psychological
effects of Winona stayed with her for a long time--she almost never talked
about her life without talking about Winona. Even so, her songs of freedom
gave voice to her suffering and the suffering she shared with her friends.
Their singing did not remove their suffering or the particularities of
their humiliation; rather, it embraced the suffering, named it, and emplotted
it in a cosmic story of hope and deliverance. At first tentatively, and
then with growing confidence, their song floated freely throughout the
jail, exploding the death grip of the cell. "Jail doors open and
they walked out, let my people go." Despair turned into a steady
resoluteness to keep on going. A miracle happened. And at least for Mrs.
Hamer, a peaceable composure, incomprehensible apart from a deep river
of faith, transformed not only her diminished self-perception but the
perception of her torturers. She said astonishingly, "It wouldn't
solve any problem for me to hate whites just because they hate me.
Oh, there's so much hate, only God has kept the Negro sane."
In the short term, nothing changed as a result
of her beating and incarceration. The cases brought by the Justice Department
against the City of Winona would come to a dismal end. June Johnson explained,
"They picked an all-white jury to try the policemen, and there were
lots of white students from Ole Miss in the courtroom with Confederate
flags." Both civil and criminal charges filed by the Justice Department
were decided in favor of local law officials. The defendants--the City
of Winona in the civil suit, and officers Patridge, Herrod, Surrell, Basinger
and Perkins in the criminal suit--were found not guilty. But even more
disheartening news awaited Mrs. Hamer and her friends when they were released
on the afternoon of June 12. They learned that civil rights leader Medgar
Evers had been gunned down the night before in front of his own home--just
seconds after his wife Myrlie and their three children had walked out
into their carport to welcome home the weary traveler. The news of the
murder was heavily felt. Evers stood as the animating center of the burgeoning
Jackson movement, leading sit-ins and church visits, and organizing a
wide range of strategic attacks on the city's segregated institutions.
More than ever it seemed that the call to freedom was a call that might
very well lead to death.
The torture left Mrs. Hamer in considerable pain.
"I wouldn't let my husband see me for a month, I was in such bad
shape." In fact, after her release from jail, she stayed away from
her family for six or seven weeks, traveling back and forth to Atlanta,
Washington, and New York. Nonetheless, Mrs. Hamer emerged, as the ancient
Christian theologian Athanasius wrote of Antony after his years in desert
isolation, "with utter equilibrium, like one guided by reason and
steadfast in that which accords with nature." Or as she explained
with an earthier candor, "If them crackers in Winona thought they'd
discouraged me from fighting, I guess they found out different. I'm going
to stay in Mississippi and if they shoot me down, I'll be buried here."
The experience brought her face to face with her worst fears about white
racist violence, civil rights activism, and herself, but empowered by
freedom songs and "the truth" she emerged full of courage and
righteous anger. She said, "I'm never sure any more when I leave
home whether I'll get back or not. Sometimes it seem like to tell the
truth today is to run the risk of being killed. But if I fall, I'll fall
five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing
talks about his book The Children
with David Gergen,
editor-at-large of U.S. News & World Report
May 22, 1998
DAVID GERGEN: David, in the brief
time we have we cannot do justice to the drama and moral force of
this story, but sketch out, if you can, the outlines.
DAVID HALBERSTAM, Author, "The Children:" Well, its
a compelling story. In February 1960, a fast backwarding, its
six years after Brown Vs. Board of Education, the landmark case on
ending segregation. A group of young black students in Nashville,
a border state, a liberalseemingly liberalcity, and nothing
has happened in their lives to change it. And so they take courses
in Christian non-violence and Gandhi and non-violence from a brilliant
young minister, Jim Lawson, and with that, they make an assault upon
downtown restaurants, which will take their money but not serve them
at their counters.
DAVID GERGEN: Jim Lawsonblackhad
been persuaded to join this effort by Martin Luther King.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Very similar background
to Dr. King. Both sons of black ministers, born in the same year,
a great sense of civic non-violence in a Gandhian way was the answer.
Jim Lawson had gone to India for three years, spent a year in a
federal penitentiary, because he didnt believe in the Korean
War, in that violent a scenario. And so when King met him, and they
met at Oberlin in 1958, and they started exchanging bios, and Jim
said, well, one day I would like to come down, get my doctorate,
and Ill come down, he said, come now, we need you now; youre
way ahead of the curve. You know, its exploding around us.
So he comes down, and one of the first things he does is teach these
young people the power of an idea.
DAVID GERGEN: The Lawson teaching I found
to be absolutely fascinating.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Well, there are two aspects.
One, that you had to love those who would oppress you. You had toyou
know, you had to find the love of Jesus Christ, that you would love
your neighbor, love everyone around you. But you couldnt do
that until you loved yourself. You had to find self-esteem, and
these were black kids, and called pejorative names all their lives
and been suppressed, and taught them self-esteem first, that if
they esteem themselves, then they could find the goodness to love
the segregationists. That was part one. Part two was the power of
the idea, that, you know, you had no money, theres the segs,
and they have a mayor and the police and the restaurant owners,
theyve got all the power levers. But if your idea is powerful,
you do the right thing in the right way, then the restaurant owners
either have to accede to you, or they arrest you, in which case
you begin the processand this is quite Gandhianof martyrdom.
And if youre a martyr, then youre no longer anonymous;
you have power from your action. And it was a prophetic vision.
DAVID GERGEN: When these young kids came
out of theseout of these workshops and started thisyou
were a young reporter at that time, just graduated from college.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: It was amazing! You could
see it. I mean, I was a kid. I was innocent, but I knew I was watching
DAVID GERGEN: Did you think they were going
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Yes, yes, because I saw
their purpose. I saw their dignity. I knew I was watching the cream
of Southern young black manhood and womanhood who were doing this
thing, that there wasthe word I would use now that I didnt
have the grasp of then was nobility, thatI mean, people were
raining down rocks and epithets, pouring ketchup on them, pouring
coffee on them, putting out cigarettes on the back of their hand,
and they were oblivious. Their vision of what they were doing was
so powerful, I thought theyd win. And I also didnt think
that it would end with a cup of Woolworths coffee and a Woolworths
hamburger, and I was right. A year later, the go into the valley
of the shadow of deathas they call itthey take over
the freedom rides into Alabama and Mississippi.
DAVID GERGEN: Right. And that really turned
the civil rights
DAVID HALBERSTAM: That really ratcheted up,
and it makes itbecomes part of a great national moral teleplay,
with Martin Luther King sort of casting it; the young people I write
about, who were the infantrymen, the foot soldiers, you know, John
Lewis, Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, Diane Nash, theyre
out putting their bodies on the railroad tracks, and the idea is
we will go into the most dangerous venues, Bull Connor in Birmingham,
Jim Clark, the sheriff in Selma, and we will risk our lives and
television cameras will be there, and reporters will be there, and
America will witness it. And what they were doing was they were
taking a white hat and putting it on black heads and black heads
and putting it on Jim Clark and Bull Connor, and it was brilliant,
and in four years they won.
DAVID GERGEN: And they were beaten.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Beaten. They were almost killed.
Bernard Lafayette, whos one of the young heroes in this book,
I mean, was almost murdered in Selma. He was the first guy to do voter
registration in Selma. On the night that Medgar Edwards was murdered,
they almost murdered Bernard as well. I mean, by chance he escaped.
Theres a picture of him in there that looks like hes beaten
half to death. The level of heroismbut David, its not
just heroism. Its a special kind of heroism, because its
driven by faith. This is a religious movement. This is black Protestant
Christianity, with a Gandhian overtone of how to do it. And its
faith. I mean, faith drives them. I once asked John Lewis, who is,
I guess, my favorite public citizen. I said, John, where did the courage
DAVID GERGEN: A congressman.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Congressman. He said, faith,
faith in our God, faith in Jim Lawson, White House o had taught
us so well, faith in each other that we would not, you know, desert
each other in this moment of need, a little smile--he said, and
faith in this country, which had never done anything for us or for
our parents and families. So it really is a great moment of faith.
DAVID GERGEN: The other part of this, these
were ordinary people.
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Yes.
DAVID GERGEN: These were kids who were not
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Not even ordinary. They
were in a wayI mean, thats the great thing. I love the
book, because its about democracy in action. This is the best
moment in American democracy since World War II and not because
Lyndon Johnson signs an act or Burt B. Hickamooper switches sides,
but because young Americans least advantaged, from the poorest part
of the country, the poorest parents, born late in the Depression,
in the South, black parents, barely in the cash economy, most of
them about to be the first members of their family to go to college,
take it unto themselves, risking their lives, making out wills when
they go into Birmingham and Selma, making out19 year old kidsto
make this country better, and they do it. And its an incandescent
DAVID GERGEN: Do you think the civil rights
movement would have succeeded without them?
DAVID HALBERSTAM: No. It wouldnt have
succeeded without them. It wouldnt have succeeded without
Dr. King and the group around him, and it wouldnt have succeeded
without the coming of television at that particular moment. I think
the fact that they could amplify this as a moral story into the
homes of so many millions of Americans on this brand new instrument,
national network television, in its infancy, when it was just going
through fifteen to thirty minutes, Huntley, Brinkley, and Cronkite,
the innocence of the instrument and the innocence of the country
watching all came together. Its an amazing moment.
DAVID GERGEN: What does this all tell you
about white America?
DAVID HALBERSTAM: I think it teaches youI
mean, the system can be changed, that there is a reservoir of goodness
and a desire for a just society, but it has to be done in the right
way, at the right time, you have to sort of create a condition,
and you have to appeal to an American sense of fairness. So I think
theres a powerful desire in America for two things: to have
your own kids live a better life than you lived, or at least as
good a life, and secondly, a sense of fairness that other peoples
kids should have this good a life and as fair a shot as yours. I
think thats elemental in our society.
DAVID GERGEN: What lessons for today?
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Well, I think that the
society can be changed; that theres elasticity; that the country
can under certain conditions listen; that people want a better country;
they want a fair country; that if you make people understand what
doesnt work and what should work. It can be done. Its
more complicated now, because this was an assault upon legal and
state sanctions segregation, and now to the degree that racism exists,
its much more pernicious. Its the historic relic of
200 years of a troubled history from slavery, but it still can be
done. I think people want a good country.
DAVID GERGEN: It takes some people with moral
DAVID HALBERSTAM: Passioncommitment--and
willingness to pay a price.
DAVID GERGEN: David Halberstam, thank you
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