by Doctor Science
A MLK Day post, slightly delayed
One of the reasons gun fans give for wanting everyone to bear arms is that armed people are better able to resist or change a tyrannical, unjust government. In one of our recent discussions, for instance, someone said:
Not that guns are the way to fight every problem. Sometimes peaceful ways are much better, like MLK. But I think Nazis would have shot MLK and then gone about their business.Along these lines, last week Rush Limbaugh said:
If a lot of African-Americans back in the '60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? I don't know, I'm just asking. If John Lewis, who says he was beat upside the head, if John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?John Lewis replied:
Our goal in the Civil Rights Movement was not to injure or destroy but to build a sense of community, to reconcile people to the true oneness of all humanity. African Americans in the ‘60s could have chosen to arm themselves, but we made a conscious decision not to. We were convinced that peace could not be achieved through violence. Violence begets violence, and we believed the only way to achieve peaceful ends was through peaceful means. We took a stand against an unjust system, and we decided to use this faith as our shield and the power of compassion as our defense.
Cut due to spoilers for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie:
Lewis and his fellows practiced heroic non-violence, and it worked. I don't think it worked for Lewis -- or for Gandhi, or for Nelson Mandela, or for any of the other successful practitioners of non-violent resistance -- because their opponents were wimpier than Nazis, who would have just "shot them and gone about their business". The trouble is that nonviolence is *hard*, it takes patience and discipline. Look at the notorious "pepper spray cop" incident, for instance:
The Occupy protestors display a level of discipline and self-control any military unit would be proud of. I think they were extremely brave.
What I notice is that we can't seem to make non-violent heroism into a *story*, a narrative that grips and inspires people, that makes non-violence salient. And by "we" I guess I mean "Hollywood", first of all.
For instance, one of the many changes between the book of The Hobbit and part I of Peter Jackson's treatment is that, in the book, Bilbo never actually uses his sword on anything except giant spiders, though he also waves it about to threaten Gollum. He's a trickster and a burglar, not a fighter; he's very brave (on occasion), but his bravery comes from his willingness to take risks (like walk into a dragon's den unarmed) and to do what he thinks is right (as with the Arkenstone), not from an urge to ATTACK!!
And yet, that's what Jackson has him do (at the end of what used to be "Fifteen Birds in Five Fir Trees"), and it's only after that that Thorin truly respects him. You're a man now, little hobbit.
Now I'm sure Jackson would say that he only made these changes to make the movie more "exciting" or "engaging", or to move the narrative along. But the upshot for our collective imagination is that a fundamentally non-violent, trickster hero becomes a conventional violent one, and we lose a template for non-violent heroism.
Is it possible to show the heroism of non-violence in our most influential media? If we don't see it in our favorite stories, how likely are we to seek it in our hearts?
This is an experiment, to see if I can write shorter (hah!) posts more frequently, by writing quickly and leaving out the art.