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Monday, January 30, 2017

I will not give up repeating the names of Rama and Rahim, which mean to me the same god.

Back in 1908, Gandhi was released from the first of his many imprisonments in South Africa.  He'd been arrested essentially for refusing to register per the Asiatic Registration Act (only about 500 of 13,000 Indians complied).  His trial on January 10 was quite a circus:

The eastern side of Government Square presented an extraordinary scene of excitement this afternoon. All through the lunch hour there was a big gathering of Indians, and at two o’clock precisely a continuous stream of Indians indicated the approach of the leaders. Mr. Gandhi was the first to appear. It was drizzling, and his ardent admirers sheltered him with umbrellas as he walked along slowly reading the first edition of The Star. The Indians kept pouring on to the Square, and the public entrance to the Court was blocked.

The Magistrate, Mr. Jordan, was seen walking through the crowd, and of course he attracted considerable attention. At ten minutes past two the lock was heard in the door, and the press outside became greater. The doors were flung open and the crowd was met by Captain Potter, Superintendent Vernon, and two police. The officer ordered the entrance to be cleared and considerable confusion followed. The dense mass swayed backward, and when it was possible for egress to be obtained by a few people at a time, people were allowed to pass in.
Mr. M. K. Gandhi was first called, and he pleaded guilty to the charge, which was one of disobeying the order of the Court to leave the Colony within 48 hours.

Mr. Fred Klette, clerk in B Court, went into the witness-box and produced the records in the case Rex v. Gandhi heard in that Court on the 28th of December. Defendant was on that occasion ordered to leave the Colony within 48 hours. Witness served a written order personally on the accused.

On being asked by the Magistrate if he had any questions to ask, Mr. Gandhi replied:

No, Sir.

Superintendent Vernon, B Division, said that at 2 p.m. that afternoon he arrested the accused for failing to comply with the order. He had seen the accused repeatedly from the date the order was made until today.

Mr. Gandhi had again no questions to ask.

Mr. Schuurman intimated that this was the case.

Mr. Gandhi asked leave to make a short statement, and, having obtained it, he said he thought there should be a distinction made between his case and those who [sic] were to follow. He had just received a message from Pretoria stating that his compatriots had been tried there and had been sentenced to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour; and they had been fined a heavy amount, in lieu of payment of which they would receive a further period of three months’ hard labour. If these men had committed an offence, he had committed a greater offence, and he asked the Magistrate to impose upon him the heaviest penalty.

MR. JORDAN: You asked for the heaviest penalty which the law authorizes?

MR. GANDHI: Yes, Sir.

MR. JORDAN: I must say I do not feel inclined to accede to your request of passing the heaviest sentence, which is six months’ hard labour with a fine of £500. That appears to me to be totally out of proportion to the offence which you have committed. The offence practically is contempt of Court in having disobeyed the order of December 28. This is more or less a political offence, and if it had not been for the defiance set to the law I should have thought it my duty to pass the lowest sentence which I am authorized by the Act. Under the circumstances, I think a fair sentence to meet the case would be two months’ imprisonment without hard labour. Mr. Gandhi was then removed in custody

It was around this time that Gandhi's fundamental concept of nonviolent struggle was formed:

The principle called Satyagraha came into being before that name was invented. Indeed when it was born, I myself could not say what it was. In Gujarati also we used the English phrase 'passive resistance' to describe it. When in a meeting of Europeans I found that the term 'passive resistance' was too narrowly construed, that it was supposed to be a weapon of the weak, that it could be characterized by hatred, and that it could finally manifest itself as violence, I had to demur to all these statements and explain the real nature of the Indian movement. It was clear that a new word must be coined by the Indians to designate their struggle.

But I could not for the life of me find out a new name, and therefore offered a nominal prize through Indian Opinion to the reader who made the best suggestion on the subject. As a result Maganlal Gandhi coined the word Sadagraha (Sat=truth, Agraha=firmness) and won the prize. But in order to make it clearer I changed the word to Satyagraha, which has since become current in Gujarati as a designation for the struggle.

General Smuts let Gandhi out of jail after they'd reached a tentative compromise about the legislation, but the struggle continued for many years.  Even throughout their disagreements, Gandhi viewed Smuts through the lens of common humanity (as Howard Thurman always advised decades later):

[F]or much of the rest of the time Gandhi spent in South Africa, Smuts tended to prevaricate on the "Indian Question", continually disappointing Gandhi. It was only in 1914 that Gandhi was able to negotiate a lasting compromise, the Smuts-Gandhi agreement. While not resolving all the issues plaguing South African Indians, it lead to an amelioration of previous laws, passed under the name of The Indian Relief Bill of 1914.

Nevertheless, they never lost respect for one another. As can be seen in the passage below, Gandhi tried, at all times, to look for the positive in Smuts, even according him a "high place among the politicians of British Empire and even of the world". At other times, however, Gandhi could not shake his concerns about Smuts’s duplicity.

By 1914, however, the relationship between Smuts and Gandhi came to something of an end. In an act of supreme generosity, Gandhi presented Smuts with a pair of sandals (which he had learnt to make at Tolstoy Farm), which Smuts was to use late into his life.

Sadly, not everybody got the message, which is why he was killed exactly 40 years after his first release from satyagrahic confinement.  His last words?

A few days after Mahatma Gandhi died, his secretary, Pyarelal, wrote a detailed account of the assassination, including the following: "At the first shot, the foot that was in motion, when he was hit, came down. He still stood on his legs when the second shot rang out, and then collapsed. The last words he uttered were 'Rama Rama'."

A different exclamation, "Hey, Ram!", is normally attributed to him. (An American scholar has suggested that this version is due to Gurbadu Singh.) In the 1960s his niece, Manu, who was near him, recalled his last words as "Hey Ram, Hey Ram." According to one of the conspirators who was in the crowd, he produced only an inarticulate guttural rasp.

At least some of the witnesses seem to have heard what they expected or wanted to hear. The "guttural rasp" version, for example, might well be dismissed as hostile. However, the fact that two of the other three accounts imply that he said more than just "Hey Ram" once - which a devout Hindu might be assumed in principle to say - suggests that this "normal" version is probably also incorrect.

"Rama, Rama" would beautifully express surrender to Rama's will, whereas "Hey Ram, Hey Ram" would more likely express an un-Gandhian sense of helplessness. However, the mere existence of so many contradictions makes it seem likely that he was heard indistinctly. And indeed, he was frail and old and two bullets had just entered his chest.

In this light it may be of interest that nine months earlier, Gandhi in one of his talks after a prayer meeting suggested unequivocally that his very last words, if he were assassinated, would be "Rama, Rahim": "Even if I am killed, I will not give up repeating the names of Rama and Rahim, which mean to me the same God. With these names on my lips, I will die cheerfully."

Thus he was finally released from service to India and nonviolence.


January 30, 2017 in Conscience, PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0)

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

"We must try to radicalize the American people..."

It was the most significant day of all of our lives because in 48 hours more young people were radicalized, revolutionized and yippieized than in any single time in American history

- Jerry Rubin on the aftermath of Kent State

Four dead 46 years ago, including Allison Krause.  As her younger sister, Laurel, wrote back in 2009 (emphasis mine):

To Allison, it was an obligation to show dissension to the government invading Cambodia. She made her decision, and we all know the outcome.
Allison’s death symbolizes the importance of our right to protest and speak our truths freely.
Looking back, did the Kent State protest and killings make a difference? Well, there was a huge response by Americans.

The Kent State shooting single-handedly created the only nationwide student strike with over 8 million students from high schools to universities speaking out and holding rallies afterwards.

Indeed, it turns out that violent repression often results in greater mobilization of the masses, and Kent State is a good example (emphasis again mine):

[T]he majority of Americans supported the Guard's actions at Kent State. Many parents viewed the shootings as the tragic lot of a generation weaned on permissiveness. This view directly contradicted student reaction and resulted in further division between generations. The country experienced its first national student strike, in which over one third of the Nation's campuses were involved. There were approximately one hundred strikes per day for the four days following the deaths, as universities throughout the nation were besieged by protesting students. One hundred thousand marched in Washington to protest the war and the killings at Kent. 

What's more, in the wake of Kent and the Jackson State killings later that month, we saw "nearly a million marchers on both coasts in April, 1971; 12,000 activists performing civil disobedience in Washington in May; and 100,000 marching in 1972 against the mining of North Vietnam's harbors, and at the January, 1973, 'counter-inaugural' against the bombing of Hanoi."

Interestingly enough, Kent State happened in the midst of the first rumblings of student strikes, and the massacre appears to have galvanized the movement and became a rallying event as much as the Maine, Pearl Harbor or even 9/11 (emphasis mine once more):

The slight hope and deep frustration on which the Movement had been floating was transformed to pure despair and pure rage. There was nothing to talk about, only sides to be taken. After Nixon's speech announcing the invasion, scores of campuses had gone out on strike in a contagious competition. After Kent State, it was hundreds, and it was untenable for students opposed to the war to cooperate with the part of the System with which they had the most contact and the most control, their universities.

Not just for students but for their parents, who were part of the Silent Majority Nixon needed, Kent State was a stunning event. A gasp of recognition rippled through mainstream America: these were their kids being shot down! The madness of the war, if not the war itself, had finally come home. These "average Americans" could accept the use of state power to draft lower and middle-class kids...They could accept the unleashing of the raw power of the state against unruly and disdainful foreigners. They could even accept police killings of black activists...What they could not accept was the state turning on their own kind, and when parents of Kent State's dead went on television, bitterly denouncing the attack, the Silent Majority listened.
When I and two other strikers began leafleting in an advanced science class, the professor recovered from his astonishment at the sight of these hairy barbarians and politely asked us to wait a few minutes until class ended. We complied equally politely, but after Kent State, bands of raging strikers roamed the campus in search of offending classes, and Chicago went down for the count.
Now America's ruling elite worried less about how to win the war and more about how to avoid losing the country. The young were gone, the troops were unreliable, and unions were starting to break ranks with the hawkish AFL-CIO. America's house was becoming divided, and the owners' strongest instinct was to tone down the war as much as was needed to save their power at home.
By the fall of 1970, America's elite, unrepentant but pragmatic, had moved to a new consensus, in essence telling Nixon and congress to cut the necessary deal: the end of the war for the end of the Movement. Now the war was really over...The Movement dwindled and died from 1970 to 1973 as all US forces came home...After the US air and ground combat role ended with the signing of the 1973 peace accords, the Movement could only watch the slaughter from the sidelines. It had become a Sword of Damocles, as the SWP's Fred Halstead said, hanging over Nixon and then Ford should they try to increase aid or reintroduce US forces, but the sword stayed in its sheath.

Kent State didn't shut down protest.  It did scare folks, but it wasn't The Movement: it was the very people we were resisting who had a vested interest in the status quo.  When did The Movement fade away?  After they'd essentially won.

Lesson for today's Berners, who don't know/have forgotten: win or lose, we must keep fighting, radically.


May 4, 2016 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (6)

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Because God Knows We Don't Want Any New Nonviolent Citizens


A California resident applying for U.S. citizenship has had her application denied because immigration officials did not accept as valid a conscientious objector, declaration to “bear arms” in defense of the U.S. because it is secular in nature. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is representing Adriana Ramirez in her appeal.

In a letter dated Feb. 27, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials in San Diego, CA were informed that their decision is not supported by the law and should immediately be reversed. “Given the Supreme Court’s unequivocal instruction that, to be consistent with the Constitution, the government must interpret a statute permitting conscientious objection on the basis of ‘religious’ belief to include comparable secular moral views,” the letter states, “denying Ms. Ramirez’s citizenship on the grounds that her secular moral beliefs are not ‘religious’ is unconstitutional.”

“There is no legal basis to deny a citizenship application because one’s ethical values are secular,” said Appignani Legal Center attorney Monica Miller. “The letter is meant to clarify the mistake being made by officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’s San Diego office so that the application process can move forward.”

In June 2013, the American Humanist Association was successful in a nearly identical case. On behalf of Margaret Doughty, a similar letter was sent by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials in Texas outlining the Supreme Court rulings that require the government to treat secular and religious conscientious objectors alike. Shortly after the letter was received, Ms. Doughty’s citizenship application was approved.

During the citizenship process, applicants are allowed to express moral, ethical, or religious objections to warfare, making the promise to “bear arms” an optional part of the oath of loyalty taken by those approved for citizenship.

We want people to become citizens who will contribute to society, and yes, even defend it.  But there are myriad ways to contribute and defend, which includes stuff that is both secular and nonviolent.  One hopes AHA will be successful again in this pursuit.

As an aside, Madison's original proposal for what eventually became the Second Amendment included a clause regarding conscientious objection.  Worry not, even though Vermont's constitution (New Hampshire's, too!) still have such a provision, not everybody will turn into Quakers.  

I think we can afford to let a few fellow travellers become an American, if only because they could help us find tools other than violence to make our country and the world a better place.


February 28, 2014 in Conscience, PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

For The Record, Medea Wasn't Playing Poker

Still going strong after all these years:

CODEPINK co-founder and anti-war activist Medea Benjamin interrupted a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the possibility of a U.S. military strike in Syria on Tuesday, prompting a response from Secretary of State John Kerry after she was ejected from the proceedings.

Video posted by Talking Points Memo shows Benjamin “We don’t want another war,” before being grabbed by security and led out of the hearing. She can also be heard saying, “Nobody wants this war. Cruise missiles, launching cruise missiles, means another war. The American people do not want this.”

Good of Kerry to empathize and acknowledge differences of opinion, but I think he missed Medea's point, as well as his own.


September 3, 2013 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

PaxLives: Just Forget It (1937)

In which NTodd just lays there on top of the world as the sole survivor with Al Jolson, Asia, and Snow Patrol (10:55/4.4M). Subscribe!


August 9, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

PaxLives: Camelot (1937)

In which NTodd returns to a simpler, more magical time with Queen and Annie Lennox. (8:06/3.2M). Subscribe!


August 2, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Monday, August 01, 2011

PaxLives: Someone's Got To Be Oppressed (1937)

In which NTodd signs up for Obama's course on ConLaw and negotiation with The Beatles, Aerosmith, and Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot. (12:32/5.0M). Subscribe!


August 1, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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PaxLives: Pick Your Poison (1937)

In which NTodd examines Obama's classic blunder with Count Basie and Fall Out Boy. (9:30/3.8M). Subscribe!


August 1, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Friday, July 29, 2011

PaxLives: If We Can Put Man On The Moon, Why Can't We Raise The Debt Ceiling? (Catch As Catch Can)

In which NTodd celebrates the 40th anniversary of Apollo 15 with Indigo Girls and Led Zeppelin. (12:57/5.2M). Subscribe!


July 29, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PaxLives: If We Can Put Man On The Moon, Why Can't We Tax The Filthy Rich? (Catch As Catch Can)

In which NTodd fucking wonders what the fuck happened to his fucking country with The Decemberists and Incubus. (12:32/5.0M). Subscribe!


July 20, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PaxLives: Step Out Of The Driving Rain (Catch As Catch Can)

In which NTodd stands at the water's edge in his dream and thinks he's gotta do something about where we're going with U2 and Peter Gabriel. (9:47/3.9M). Subscribe!


June 28, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

PaxLives: Weiners On A Pike (Catch As Catch Can)

In which NTodd celebrates finding his copy of Barenaked On A Stick with a weenie roast. (5:55/2.4M). Subscribe!


June 9, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

PaxLives: Spring Air (Catch As Catch Can)

In which NTodd takes some time to breathe the spring air with Vivaldi and Bach. (8:29/3.4M). Subscribe!


June 5, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

PaxLives: Don't Waste My Time (Catch As Catch Can)

In which NTodd finally finds a few moments to do a podcast with Muse and Silversun Pickups. (11:49/4.7M). Subscribe!


June 2, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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Friday, May 27, 2011

PaxLives: Unorthodoxy (Man From Mars)

In which NTodd challenges the prevailing wisdom with Red Hot Chili Peppers and 30 Seconds To Mars (12:40/5.1M). Subscribe!


May 27, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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PaxLives: You Must Remember This (Man From Mars)

In which NTodd goes when no man has gone before with Rosemary Clooney and CSN. (9:40/3.9M). Subscribe!


May 27, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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PaxLives: Where Are We, And Why Are We In This Handbasket? (Man From Mars)

In which NTodd tries to comprehend a changing world with the Steve Miller Band, Rockapella and Cher. (11:48/4.8M). Subscribe!


May 27, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

PaxLives: Pursuit Of Happiness (Man From Mars)

In which NTodd celebrates Adams, Jefferson and Madison in the only way he knows how with The Beatles, The Simpsons and The Beastie Boys. (11:09/4.5M). Subscribe!


May 24, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

PaxLives: Sacroiliac (Man From Mars)

In which NTodd gets in his car and drives real far with Gnarls Barkley and Blondie. (11:09/4.5M). Subscribe!


May 22, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

PaxLives: Eve Of De Rapture (Losing Sight)

In which NTodd sneaks in a science fiction double feature to escape the Rature with Barry McGuire, The Moody Blues, Modest Moussorgsky, Gnarls Barkley and Tommy James & The Shondells. (17:03/6.8M). Subscribe!


May 21, 2011 in PaxLives | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack