Part of A Retrospective Series on the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions 2014 as we approach the Week of Actions 2015.
by Rivera Sun for Campaign Nonviolence
“You reap what you sow,” the old saying goes. In a culture that has deep roots of violence, a long history of bloodshed, and contemporary idolization of soldiers, wars, guns, and domination, every seed of nonviolence planted in a community is a courageous act of resistance.
In the small town of Tiffin, Ohio, a young woman smiles as she perches on a hay bale, riding on a float in the annual Harvest Parade. It is the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions Sept 21-27th, 2014, and while her fellow citizens in all 50 states are protesting drones at Volk Field and Creech Air Force Bases; marching by the hundreds to end gun violence in Wilmington, Delaware; holding vigils, rallies, demonstrations and more to end war, poverty, and the climate crisis, a small group in Tiffin decided to “occupy” their traditional Harvest Festival Parade with a message of peace and nonviolence.
In a world being torn asunder by the crises of violence – war, police brutality, debilitating poverty, wanton destruction of the planet – we tend to notice large demonstrations and mass movements. A float in a small town parade is nice, we may think, but is it really doing anything?
In the 1920s, in India, a skinny, spectacled man began to spin cotton. Oh, that’s all good and well, his friends groaned, but is it really doing anything?
The man was Mohandas K. Gandhi. In 1947, the British Empire would relinquish control of India. The spinning of cotton for khadi – traditional Indian cloth – would provide a crippling economic blow to British imports, and, paired with many other nonviolent tactics, be a decisive component of India’s struggle for self-rule.
The small is not inconsequential. The Dalai Lama is often cited as quoting the African proverb, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.” Small, persistent actions taken by on a daily basis create our world – for better or for worse. Our violence-steeped culture – physical, psychological, historical, systemic, state-inflicted, economic, and cultural violence – must be publicly rejected and an alternative proposed. In our communities, schools, churches, art, entertainment, personal behaviors, economic systems, governmental offices and so much more, the everyday, persistent and pervasive presence of active nonviolence must be allowed to unleash its potent, transformative force.
Campaign Nonviolence approaches building a culture of active nonviolence like one of Gandhi’s constructive programs (such as the spinning of cotton or making of salt). As we call out and oppose the culture of violence that manifests across our economic, political, social, and environmental fields, Campaign Nonviolence also urges active participation in the culture of nonviolence. We are weeding out the destructive, and nurturing the beneficial, just as Gandhi paired his strategies of “noncooperation with evil” with strategies of “cooperating with the good”.
Plant Hope, Weed Out Hate, read the painted signs arching over the John Deere tractor that pulls the Tiffin, Ohio float. Along the side of the float, beautiful hand letters state: From hate to love, from war to peace. If we do not find our culture to be peaceful, then perhaps we must examine the seeds we are planting. The float in the Tiffin, Ohio Harvest Festival parade is one part of a movement that is rising across the country. It is a reminder to a community that peace and nonviolence are the harvest of a culture that cultivates small seeds into great fields of justice, equality, respect, and common dignity.
Thousands nationwide will be engaging in nonviolent action during the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions Sept 20-27th, 2015, to end war, poverty, the climate crisis and all forms of violence. You can participate and join with others in your local community! Learn more, find a local action, or add an action here.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun is the social media director for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. She is the author of three social protest novels, The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha, and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars. She is the cohost of Occupy Radio and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. Her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. Rivera Sun lives in an earthship house in Taos, New Mexico.www.riverasun.com