Teresa Cahill Bravo has been taking nonviolent action with Campaign Nonviolence since we launched this movement in 2014 (and many years before that as well!) and each year she submits a letter to her local newspaper in Napa, CA about the importance of nonviolence. Below is the letter she wrote for this year’s Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions.
“The choice is no longer violence or nonviolence. It’s nonviolence or nonexistence.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King
Uttered the night before he died, these words go far beyond marching strategies in Selma, or guidelines for keeping a movement alive. They reflect Dr. King’s belief that the future of humanity ultimately depends on our ability to settle conflicts without resorting to the primitive “solution” of violence. Sting put it another way: “Nothing comes from violence/and nothing ever could.”
Yet the reality is that our world is awash in violence, from local gang shootings to domestic violence, and from shootings of and by police to the genocidal, systematic murders performed by ISIS devotees. We live in a world where gross disparities in quality of life are taken more-or-less for granted, and the inequitable distribution of finite resources always threatens to undermine our feeble efforts to improve the lot of our fellow creatures.
Outside of a tiny minority of brainwashed extremists, no one you encounter will tell you that this is the kind of world they want for themselves, or for their children and grandchildren. The obvious difficulty is how to bridge the gap between where we are and the vision of a future world where violent conflict is only a distant memory. Violence is not one “problem,” but rather a kind of default response to a vast array of problems and conflicts. When emotions are high and other solutions fail, violence sometimes seems like the justified, and perhaps the only possible response.
This is where education and consciousness-raising can make a difference. Of the many international efforts to promote peace, including the Declaration of Human Rights and other U.N. initiatives, none has shown greater enthusiasm and involvement, especially at the grassroots level, than Pace E Bene’s Campaign Nonviolence. Launched in 2014, this movement has grown so rapidly that there were 370 events, in all fifty states and nine countries, in September of 2015. The group has published John Dear’s book, The Nonviolent Life, and is serving as an umbrella organization to unify efforts to create a culture of peace and nonviolence.
Locally, the monthly Peace Vigil sponsored by the Napa Unitarian Fellowship and the Napa-Sonoma Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) joined its September 2015 vigil with the Campaign Nonviolence cause, drawing a large group to the corner of Third & Soscol in Napa for a two-hour peace demonstration.
This year’s action, also in coordination with Campaign Nonviolence, will take place Sunday, September 25, from two to four PM, also at Third and Soscol. Participants will have the opportunity to meet other local peace activists, to learn more about Pace E Bene and Campaign Nonviolence, and to sign the Campaign Nonviolence pledge, that they will strive to practice nonviolence toward themselves and all others, and will join global movements “to abolish war, end poverty, stop the destruction of the earth, and foster a just and peaceful world for all.”
This action is not a march – we will stay at the four corners of the intersection, being careful not to interfere with car or foot traffic, and we will show our solidarity with signs, flags, banners, and respectful interactions with the passing public. Participants are urged to bring a hat, water, sunscreen, a chair if you like, and a peaceloving heart.
Think of this as the journey of a thousand miles, and our local peace vigil as a first step, or perhaps just the next step, in your personal and our cultural efforts to achieve a transformation. If not now, when?
– Teresa Cahill Bravo, Napa, California