Nonviolence and kindness go hand in hand. In America we set aside one day every January to honor the principles — specifically nonviolence, justice, and love – that Martin Luther King stood for. Every January our nation’s politicians, preachers, and schoolteachers praise the message of MLK. On this one day, our leaders openly celebrate King’s message of peace and non-violence. Then the other 364 days of the year we ignore King’s message while wringing our hands over the nation’s murder rate, the level of crime, and over our soldiers who seem to forever be involved in yet another foreign war with a country that did not attack us.
Meanwhile our nation’s politicians and media pundits speak words of division and intolerance, attacking those Americans who simply disagree with them as not ‘real Americans’ or as somehow a threat to the very foundations of the Republic. Our soldiers have been sent to foreign wars at least seven times in my 50-year life (while we claim we are a peaceful country, but have been attacked only once in this time period), and bloody violence is a popular way to make movies “entertaining”. It is hard at this point to argue that the US is peace-loving people when the U.S. has invaded Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq (twice), along with Afghanistan, and engaged in acts of war with a dozen other nations (such as mining the harbors of Nicaragua, bombing Libya, Cambodia and Laos) – just in the last half century. This does not take into account the funding of violent insurrections against many other governments. Although I like to think we Americans are a peace-loving people, the facts suggest otherwise.
It may be time for Americans to have a discussion about what it means to be a peace-loving people – and this is not a discussion I can recall us having in my lifetime.
The United States has become Sparta – a militaristic society that is quick to go to war and quick to send our children into harms way. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that if peace and nonviolence are not taught regularly at all levels in society – in our houses of worship, in our entertainment, and regularly preached and practiced by our leaders in what should be “civil” discourse – that nonviolence and peace is not something we will reap. Based on all objective criteria our society does not value peace and non-violence as much as it values war and violence – we are an extremely violent society compared to other free western democracies. Why can Australia and Canada have such low rates of violence when the US easily accepts so much violence in our streets? Only a spiritual change in our thinking can change this. Acts of kindness contribute to just such a spiritual change. Individual acts of kindness may seem like they are very small and unimportant, but the truth is that the future of the world depends on such small acts. The reason for this is that empathy, compassion, and kindness are the basic underpinnings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s principles of peace and non-violence.
In the United States, too many of our citizens live in near constant fear of robbery, shootings, and armed home invasions. Out of fear we spend billions on fences, locks, guns, and alarms. Yet in America we neither teach nor promote peace and nonviolence in our schools except to give a brief nod to these principles one day every year. One day every year nonviolence and peace might be taught from (some of) our pulpits, afterwards this message is ignored the other 364 days. Neither do our media or entertainment promote a message of peace and nonviolence. Indeed, our entertainment is quite often violent. We spend years teaching the history of wars but only 1 day annually talking about nonviolence. If we believe in peace and nonviolence so much, why is this acceptable?