Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010: Direct Action is Necessary for Change

"You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth?
Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action.
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood….I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

These words from King apply to all change; all quests for human justice. In the search for an end to war and lasting peace. In the hunt for truth and transparency from our government. In the crusade to provide all our brothers and sisters with the basic right of health care. In the mission to preserve the natural ecology of this planet for future generations. In the race to end industry's exploitation of the environment, government, and every man, woman and child for the purpose of squeezing every last cent possible for the benefit of the ridiculously few.

Simply replace the word "negro" in King's letter from jail in Birmingham with your name or the name of the person you love most in this world. Replace "Ku Klux Klanner" with the name of your favorite boogey man, be it Osama or Obama. Because ultimately, your boogey man is given the power to do the things you believe they are doing because so-called "moderates", perhaps yourself among them, are just sitting around.

Because you're more concerned about who will win this year's American Idol. Because things aren't great for you, but you're not uncomfortable enough to do anything to change them. That'd be too hard.

But if you're like me...if you're on the cusp of being just uncomfortable enough to actually speak out; actually organize with your brothers and sisters and publicly demonstrate; actually get out and vote for people who represent your wishes and actually call them to demand they do so. If you're like me, join me. I challenge you to quit your bitching and actually take to the streets. Rally, but do so nonviolently.

I can pretty much guarantee 2010 will find me holding a sign on a street corner. At least once.

So here's my one resolution for the year: Take DIRECT action to change the world for the better. For EVERYONE. Not one group of people. Not one country. All humans.

Who's with me? Anyone?

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