Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Guns, Gandhi, and Nonviolence

Having noted the dangerously self-absorbed demonstration being planned for DC this upcoming July 4th in a recent post, it was interesting reading through an article on provocateur Adam Kokesh in today's Washington Post.

His plan to march with thousands of others into the District, all armed, all locked and loaded, well...it's so obviously dangerous that even folks like the NRA and the even more strident Gun Owners of America have distanced themselves.

More fascinating, perhaps, was Kokesh hauling out the word "satyagraha" to describe this open-carry firearm protest he's misguidedly leading.  Satyagraha is, of course, a Gandhian term, describing the essential nature of nonviolent protest.  It's translated as "soul force," and was used to describe the spirit that pushes for reconciliation even in the face of violent resistance.

To an objective observer, nonviolence appears as nonviolence.  That is its deep strength.  Observing, for instance, the peaceful marches of Gandhian resistance to British rule, there was no question as to where violence lay.  Those who gently presented themselves before the club and the whip were clearly and self-evidently nonviolent.

Similarly, the singing, dressed-for-church marchers who were hosed and gassed and set upon by dogs in the American South were obviously and self-evidently nonviolent.  They turned the heart of a nation towards changing an oppressive system.

Defiantly carrying a loaded .223 Bushmaster carbine down the middle of a thoroughfare is blindingly, obviously different.   It is definitively not nonviolence, because open-carry is inherently a threat display.

Like the bared fangs of a chimp, it is the threat of violence to ward off violence.

This is not true if you're carrying your rifle in the woods during deer season.  It is also not true if you're at the range.

But if you wander around with a gun out in the open...in a mall, in a restaurant, near a playground, near a school...you aren't doing so for any reason other than to present a threat.

That action says: "I can kill you.  Don't mess with me."

Whatever eventually happens with this misbegotten mess of a demonstration, it is not...nor could it ever be...rationally and objectively described as "nonviolent."