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The Pledge of Resistance; and Why I Stand By It

Posted by Ryan Hall

By Michael Nagler with the Metta Center for Nonviolence

Pledge of Protection & Nonviolent Resistance

To ensure continued progress toward a world of peace, justice, and dignity for all, I HEREBY PLEDGE with love and determination that, for as long as required and as long as I am able, I will:

PROTECT my home, Planet Earth, by RESISTING attitudes and actions that compromise the living systems that sustain all Life;

PROTECT the social fabric of my country by RESISTING attitudes and actions that marginalize others through prejudice, scapegoating, or other forms of hatred and division;

PROTECT and strengthen the security of my country by RESISTING violence and militarization, especially in the mass media and our cultural and educational institutions; and

LEARN nonviolence principles and practice them in all available forms, constructive and obstructive, as a guiding principle in my own life and the way to resolve these issues permanently and well, for all concerned.

How the current form of this pledge came into being is very interesting, and –  for me at least – quite instructive.  The original version came to me in a flash right after morning meditation a few days ago.  It was more challenging, more in-your-face than this “mature version,” which is the result of fairly wide consultation with and much feedback from Metta’s networks and beyond.  Basically, my friends had two objections: that uncharacteristically (for me) I was calling for resistance and omitting reference to the ‘building’ component you see in the present version – a bit ironic since I’m the one who’s always promoting “constructive program” and prioritizing it.  The formula you’ll find in our Roadmap tool, for example, is “constructive program wherever possible; obstructive program when (still) necessary.”

In the light of these suggestions I did add “protection” to “resistance” (enjoying the nod to the Standing Rock activists) but some friends want me to go further, and I resisted that, for two reasons.  For one, anyone can rewrite the pledge to their own taste, and many are already doing so.  The second, and more important reason is, this is not intended to be a complete programmatic statement, or long-term strategy: that’s a different genre.  This genre is the “pledge of resistance,” like the one Ken Butigan organized against the threat of an outright invasion of Nicaragua in the Reagan years.  Which apparently worked!  Although nonviolence does not admit of what Kenneth Boulding called “threat power,” there are times when you have to tell your opponent, “if you do X you will have to face Y.”  It’s only fair warning – and a putting on notice of our determination.

And if ever there was a time for determination, this is it.  We are facing the most ruthless assault on our values and democratic liberties to be mounted by our own Government in our lifetimes (even in my long one).  They must be told in no uncertain terms that we are not prepared to take it lying down.

The second objection, which may be more a question of style, is to the word “permanently,” which originally was even bolder: “forever.”  Nothing is forever, say my friends.  I cannot refute their logic; but I held out for some poetic license.  There is a place for logic; but this is a place for inspiration, for letting the imagination soar.

The question now is, how to use the pledge, in this or some personalized form.  All along I’ve had not only Ken Butigan’s Pledge of Resistance but another famous event in the back of my mind: the great day that Satyagraha was born, in the Johannesburg Empire Theater, September 11th, 1906.  You will have seen it recreated in Attenborough’s Gandhi, read it in Gandhi’s own Satyagraha in South Africa, or both.  So, here’s the dream: I have sent the pledge on to Rose Berger of Sojourners, who is handing it around in her trainings, and am sending it with some other friends to be given out at the upcoming women’s march, January 21st.  Can you imagine some 200,000 women and men publicly declaring their determination to resist the assaults on our values that was enshrined in public policy the day before?  To quote Sardar Patel in the above mentioned film, “It would terrify them.”  Well, if it’s that successful, I for one will not be sorry.  We are in the fight of our lives.  We didn’t ask for it, but we cannot avoid it.  May this pledge help us all stand to the great challenge.

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