"Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.
Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr
As we mourn yet another group of innocent people who died at the hands of an AR-15 wielding killer, I've been considering the words power, force, violence and peace. How do we relate to these words as Quakers and Americans?
We are a nation conceived in violence and shedding that past and embracing a different future may be the hardest thing we do as a nation. As I write this I am recalling the time Robert F. Kennedy stood in front of an angry mob of black folk who were on the verge of rioting after a killing of one of their own by a white man. With eloquence and reason he told the crowd "a white man killed my brother too."
The challenge we have is that the American experiment of democracy is that we only thought of ourselves. As we conceived of ourselves, the American continent and imagined our manifest destiny -- we did it all by force. The Native American clearances, hemispheric control of central and south America was done through force, and global hegemony has been done by force. But force will only get you so far because force and violence always sow the seeds for a perpetual cycle of force and violence. Napoleon said it best when he quipped that "every place conquered is just another place to defend." Anyone can use force. It takes nothing more than a willingness to pick up a club, a knife, a gun, or an assault rifle. The results are always the same: awful.
Power is another matter. True power is the ability to influence. To use the power of word to change hearts and minds. To alter the course of events with the intellect, the heart, and the spirit. The true nature of power is peace because it requires no violence or coercion to bring the change.
We have witnessed time and again senseless slaughter because as a nation we believe in force. In fact we almost have a kind of religious reverence for it. The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, the US military is the largest in the world, the US sells more arms than any other nation on earth. But with all this are we any safer?
Quakers would say that security is a shared concern. Security doesn't come from the barrel of a gun or the threat of nuclear destruction. It arises when we understand as a community of people and a community of nations that YOUR SECURITY IS MY SECURITY.
When you're okay, I'm okay. And it is not a zero sum game. When you feel safe it doesn't make me less safe -- it makes me more safe.
When you are clothed and fed -- I am safer.
When you have a good job with good wages -- I am safer.
When you live in a community with good schools and roads -- I am safer.
And it is additive. Each support builds on the other. So when you see that flag with the words "don't tread on me" know that it is a war cry. It carries with it the threat of force. We can do better.
My queries for this week are:
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