The only positive aspect of the Ray Rice story is that it has brought national attention to issues related to domestic abuse. The horrific videotape depicting the Baltimore Ravens running back’s brutal assault against his female partner makes most Americans cringe. Predictably, we are now hearing about more incidents of abuse by NFL players against women and children. Domestic assault is about control, oppression and domination. It is never justified.
On an international level, we witness escalating violence in the Middle East, in Palestine and the Ukraine. We hear the call for retaliation and revenge in response to the execution of Americans. Wars no longer have an end point, they have become perpetual. Since 9/11, the war on terrorism has expanded on many fronts but has had virtually no impact in quelling the rise of ISIS and other radical extremists.
Our lives are not more secure. Unquestionably, the use of violence has served only to increase the incidence of violence. We dwell in a culture of violence.
Without consideration of alternatives, violence has become the methodology used to resolve conflict on individual, community and global levels.
Day to day, the experience of violence can overwhelm our hearts and minds to the point of producing a type of psychic numbing, desensitizing us to this reality. Violence in our society and throughout the world has become so commonplace that we barely notice the evening newscast that details the killing and bloodshed in our cities, the firefights and bombs exploding in Iraq, the mass shootings of schoolchildren.
In our culture, violence has many different faces. People living in poverty experience the violence perpetuated by unjust structures and systems that disproportionately favor the rich in this country, where the top 1 percent hold 40 percent of the wealth, where corporations masquerade as people, where children go hungry amid opulence and abundance.
Even our precious earth reels against daily assaults of another kind — in the form of fracking, tar sands mining, mountaintop removal and the exploitation of natural resources solely for profit. We also have become desensitized to that type of assault. The scientific evidence concerning climate change is plentiful and yet the response of global leaders is negligible.
How will we ever stem the tide of violence if we are not paying attention, if we are not outraged by its existence and perpetual expansion? What will cause us to consider alternatives?
In the face of the enormous violence and injustice we face, we need the power of active nonviolence more than ever. Are we willing to take action and build a culture of peace for ourselves, our children and grandchildren?
Nationally, there is a growing movement to make nonviolence mainstream; to connect the dots between war, poverty, the climate crisis and violence in all its forms. Campaign Nonviolence is a movement to make nonviolence mainstream at all levels — among ourselves, toward one another and toward the world.
Nonviolence can be practiced in many ways — as a personal path, as an ethic for community living as well as a strategy for social change. History offers powerful examples of active nonviolence and its practitioners, including Jesus of Nazareth, who instructed his disciple to “put down the sword”; the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the historic movement for civil rights in the U.S.; and Mohandas Gandhi, who orchestrated the resistance movement against British rule in India.
Nonviolence is a force for truth, justice, and the well-being of all. As King put it, nonviolence is “the love that does justice.” It is a way of life and a means of transforming the world.
This week, over 200 nonviolent public actions will take place nationally in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C., to highlight the International Day of Peace and to support last weekend’s People’s Climate March in New York City.
In Bangor, 40 peace and justice organizations, as well as faith communities, will co-sponsor End Violence Together — a rally and march to be held at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Bangor waterfront. There will be music, speakers, informational tables and a closing ceremony after the downtown march.
Mary Ellen Quinn of Winterport is co-coordinator of Pax Christi Maine, a Catholic organization that promotes peace and nonviolence, and has worked as a social worker in Bangor for over 30 years.