By Mary Ellen Quinn, Co-Coordinator of Pax Christi Maine, the Catholic Peace Movement and a Campaign Nonviolence Organizer in Bangor, ME.
There is no question that we dwell in a culture of violence. Unless you live on a remote mountain top, you cannot escape the daily reports of mass destruction of human beings, of creatures and our natural world.
We dwell in a culture of violence…where nations, groups and individuals resort to violence to resolve conflict. We dwell in a culture where profit is valued over people; where economic disparity is rampant, robbing people of basic necessities. We dwell in a culture that promotes the glory of militarism, pouring vast resources into endless war around the globe. We dwell in a culture where hate and fear is intentionally fueled along the divides of race, ethnicity and religion. We dwell in a culture where the cries of our children, who ask only to be protected from slaughter as they attend school, are ignored.
Beyond the violence perpetrated on human beings, there is the destruction of mother earth, the water, the air and all the creatures who co-inhabit this world with us. The overwhelming increase of catastrophic climate change events is staggering. Deadly hurricanes, floods, fires, landslides and volcanos are so destructive and yet clear solutions are thwarted by those who deny the scientific research.
We dwell in a culture where our leaders remain at a standstill interested only in the obstruction perpetuated by partisan politics preventing any action which might move change forward. We dwell in a culture where the truth is not the truth; where alternate facts and blatant hypocrisy prevail and numb us to what is real; where promises to ordinary citizens are broken in favor of the wealthy elites.
The question that needs to be answered is what will we do to respond? What will we do as people who desire to live in a world that views all human beings as valuable; that shares its wealth to promote the common good; that is proactive in efforts to save our environment; that values our children and grandchildren; that sees the richness in diversity and promotes a consistent ethic of life across all peoples and issues.
Will we continue to complain without accepting responsibility? Will we allow ourselves to feel disempowered, overwhelmed? Will we remain distracted by the frenetic pace of our lives, our social media addiction? Will we remain silent and immobilized as the epidemic of violence marches on?
Or will we wake up to our ability to effect change, stand up for our values, educate ourselves on effective nonviolent solutions, strengthen our democracy, seek connection with our neighbors who can no longer accept the status quo?
Recently we have seen many fine examples of standing up and speaking up. Sen. John McCain was eulogized as a man who held strong principles and voiced them with conviction. Last spring, we witnessed the uprising of the Parkland High School students who called BS to claims of powerlessness by elected leaders to effect change in gun control laws. A few weeks ago, Mollie Tibbetts’ dad criticized those who would make his daughter’s death a cause to further ignite the hatred of immigrants rather than an incidence of violence against women.
Culture change is possible. The practice of nonviolence is an antidote to the epidemic of violence. History provides numerous teachers of nonviolence including Gandhi, King and Jesus of Nazareth. Nonviolence is a powerful strategy for social change as well as a sustainable way of life.
Locally, there is an opportunity to join neighbors at the 5th annual End Violence Together Rally & March on September 15 1-4pm in West Market Square in Bangor. This action is part of a national Campaign Nonviolence movement with over 35 organizations and faith communities networking together to offer speakers, music, art and education on nonviolent solutions.
In November, the midterm elections will provide another way to speak up, to exercise your power to choose elected officials who support policies that promote a new culture of peace and nonviolence. The power lies within us, fueled by our beliefs, our values, our faith that it is not too late to alter the course we are on, to bring about a world we desire. The time is now!