Growing up and receiving my education in a Quaker community, nonviolence was instilled in me from an early age. Respect for all and the belief in equality developed in me, and I was blessed with a community that constantly affirmed these ideals and values.
What does it even mean to be a pacifist?
However, current events have sparked a desire to question my identity as a pacifist, and as a person who believes in taking nonviolent action. In the news I hear angry words and read about horrific tragedies almost daily from across the globe. Environmental degradation, shootings, bombings all run through the headlines. Also my mind. What does it even mean to be a pacifist? To practice nonviolence? How do I operate as such in our current world? In order to answer some of these questions, I first decided to look back…
In regards to my education and school curriculum in general, I was given precious few examples of nonviolent action, and I wonder if others face the same challenges. The prominent memories I have are of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, bus boycotts and protests at restaurants, or perhaps several stories of Gandhi and the Salt March. These are some of the only concepts I have about practicing nonviolence, but why? Aren’t there other examples that we could be looking to for inspiration? Why does our education not emphasize these important examples in such a tumultuous time?
For instance, what of the people in New Zealand who built tree houses and lodged in the trees in order to protect their forest from destruction? What about the singing revolution in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? In Sierra Leone, people have resisted several military regimes by refusing to cooperate and using passive resistance methods. My question remains, should we not be uplifting these stories as well?
There is more to nonviolence and resistance to fear and terror than a few stories about MLK and Gandhi.
We face turbulent times, and after reviewing these few examples, I wonder if we could encourage more nonviolent practice simply by promoting these efforts in the school curriculum.
There are many ways to take action in today’s seemingly violent world. It is not necessary to dwell on fear when we have countless prominent examples of people who show us it is possible to face violence with nonviolence and succeed. There are so many we can look to for inspiration.
I am hopeful that as a Quaker, as a pacifist, and as a human, I can find ways to lift up these voices with my own, to see if we can silence the voices of violence. I am hopeful that we can all be inspired by these many stories of nonviolence. And more importantly, take action ourselves in sustainable ways.
I have found that I can express myself as a pacifist, and as a believer in nonviolent resistance in many forms. The first, and foremost, is by educating myself about those who have come before me. I am encouraged by all that I have learned and look forward to continuing on my journey of discovering how to fully express my identity as a pacifist in my day-to-day life.
Also published on Medium.