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“Welcome to the Revolution!”: Thoughts on the Great March to End Gun Violence

Posted by Erin Bechtol
03.27.18

By Rev. John Dear // Also posted on CommonDreams.org

“Welcome to the revolution!”

That’s what one of the Parkland students said Saturday morning to the massive crowd of one million people in Washington, DC who marched along with millions of others in over 830 events around the world to end gun violence.

Bring it on, I say. Bring on that great, long-over-due, world-changing, people-empowering, empire-disarming, soul-saving, nonviolent revolution for justice, disarmament, and Mother Earth.

Bring it on.

Of course, it’s not that easy, but one can hope for it, envision it, and work for it. It’s a long-haul struggle that requires risk, sacrifice, all the love and energy we can muster, indeed our very lives, but nothing is more important than the nonviolent revolution, than the coming of a new world of justice, peace, and nonviolence.

For a global nonviolent revolution, we need to connect the dots, make that connection visible, and address the whole darn global spectrum of violence and death that is killing us and millions of sisters and brothers and the creatures and the planet itself.

That means ending gun violence—but also racism and mass incarceration; and also executions, drone attacks, and trillions spent for war; and so also, the ongoing US bombing raids and wars and the development and threat of nuclear weapons, and our mortally sinful corporate greed; and of course, the destruction of the environment and all the creatures.

I’m so grateful to all the young people who took the lead, all the groups who pitched in and made the events possible, all those who donated and chipped in, and all the millions who took to the streets in this “Holy Week” liturgy of protest. What a blessing.

Saturday’s historic march was so heartening, the Parkland students and other young speakers so inspiring, the energy unleashed across the country so hopeful! It was a gift, a sign, an encouragement for all of us to work together toward a global transformation we can barely imagine—not just the end of gun violence across the land, but the end of war, weapons, poverty, injustice, and environmental destruction and the coming of a new world of nonviolence.

When I think of violence, I think of six friends who were shot and killed—six Jesuit priests who worked at the Jesuit university in San Salvador who were assassinated in 1989 by U.S. backed-soldiers with U.S. machine guns. I think of them every day. I think too of the many teenagers I met in Kabul, Afghanistan who cried as they told me how their brothers and sisters were blown up by U.S. drone attacks. I think of them and look out my window in New Mexico at the nearby mountaintop where the Los Alamos National Nuclear Weapons Labs stands, where twenty thousand sociopaths build weapons of mass destruction to vaporize people and get well paid for it. Everywhere I see widespread poverty and suffering, and the ongoing destruction of the earth. Violence is an epidemic that touches us all. The only antidote is creative nonviolence.

For me, that global nonviolent revolution has to address every form and instance of violence, killing, injustice and death. So the nonviolent revolution is an ongoing, lifelong, intergenerational, interracial, interconnected, never-ending, grassroots, bottom up, people power movement of organized nonviolence for the end of war, racism, hunger, poverty, sexism, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction and all violence. It’s happening, we just don’t see it, but we get glimpses on rare occasions like Saturday’s global “March for our Lives.”

If it’s to take off, everyone will have to put their energies into it, just as the Parkland student survivors put their energies into speaking out and organizing these last few weeks. We’re going to have to think bigger, see a bigger vision, give more of ourselves, let our lives be disrupted, help others connect the dots, point the way toward a new culture of nonviolence, and build a global movement the likes of which the world has never seen! We can do this, this is a holy calling, this is the most noble of endeavors.

Currently, I’m traveling the country, speaking almost every night, on a three-month, fifty city tour about my new book, They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace & Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change, and everywhere I go, I hear how people are mobilizing, trying to speak out, taking new steps.

I’ve been talking about the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s brutal murder at the hands of the government, and his last words the night before: “The choice is no longer violence or nonviolence; it’s nonviolence or non-existence.” I’ve been urging everyone to connect the dots, to stand up and speak out publicly against every form of violence, to be the people Dr. King imagines—those who choose nonviolence, who build a movement to lead humanity back from the brink of non-existence, who create a new global culture of nonviolence.

Non-existence is upon us, Dr. King said fifty years ago, but there is a way out, a way through, a way forward, he insisted, and that way is active, creative, daring, public grassroots people power nonviolence. If we dare make that nonviolent revolution our common priority, and wield the power of active public nonviolence, we can transform the world. These days, we know through social science research that he was right: where active movements of nonviolence and nonviolent conflict resolution were tried, it led to more nonviolent outcomes, more nonviolent democracies, more nonviolent justice.

That means, we’re going to have to keep taking to the streets. “There’s nothing like the ‘tramp, tramp’ sound of marching footsteps in the streets to bring about change,” Dr. King said shortly before he died. The nonviolent revolution happens as we invite each other out onto the streets and make a public nonviolent nuisance of ourselves until our vision becomes contagious and the transformation occurs.

The March for our Lives has to be the new normal, the new ordinary, a new way to understand our own personal, ordinary lives, so that we carry on its energy, and keep its spirit and determination alive, even against impossible odds. Saturdays have to become our weekly day of marching for justice, disarmament and creation.

And every step along the way will have to be meticulously nonviolent, Dr. King teaches, so that the means reflect the ends and become the ends, so that along the way, we put down our guns, quit the military, stop making bombs, model nonviolence, envision a new culture of nonviolence and work to legislate and institutionalize nonviolent conflict resolution for a more nonviolent world.

At CampaignNonviolence.org, we are organizing our fifth national week of action for Sept. 15-23, 2018, with over 2000 marches, actions, and events across the nation in all fifty states against that spectrum of violence, including racism, poverty, war and environmental destruction, and for Dr. King’s vision of a new culture of nonviolence.

We’ve also called for a national march from the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue to the White House, on Saturday, September 22, in a show of active, creative nonviolence. After a rally at the Dr. King statue, we will march in silence in Gandhian satyagraha, walking in pairs to Lafayette Park where we will vigil for a new culture of nonviolence. (See www.campaignnonviolence.org)

The “tramp, tramp” that Dr. King talked about is the heart beat of the movement, a sound that will resonate through the halls of power as we vote them out and raise up new nonviolent leaders who will help us legislate justice, disarmament, and environmental protection.

Like the Parkland students, we can no longer be just activists; we have to become organizers, too. We have to learn as the kids did how to organize pubic events, actions, and marches, how to promote them and build them, how to keep the movement moving.

If we keep speaking out, stepping out, organizing and taking to the streets, in Dr. King’s spirit of active nonviolence, in the spirit of Saturday’s great march to end gun violence, and connect the dots between every form of violence to demand an end to all violence in pursuit of a new world of nonviolence, then the holy revolution of nonviolence has begun.

Welcome indeed!

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