Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, March 31, 2011
There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence.
Cesar Chavez, union worker, disciple of Jesus;
he was born on this date, 1927, in Yuma, Arizona
I am embarrassed to say that I have a long way to go. As yet, I have never been tempted to public violence. But in my heart and my dreams, I often rage with violence, with the desire to take vengeance against those who so viciously abuse others, and especially those who wreak such violence upon Gayfolk. If there were a film made of my inner violence, you would rightly be appalled. I am, when it all emerges into my conscious reflection. But then again, I wrestle with it, and I think about my “spiritual Journey”, and I’m happy that it all doesn’t have the power to overwhelm me and to control my behaviour. Of course, I have to remember what an effect it can have on my desire to live the Compassion of God.
The power of non-violent witness against injustice and abuse to bring Life out of negativity is profound. It is, of course, at the heart of Jesus’ execution, death, burial, and of His ongoing living Presence with His disciples. Have I experienced it? Yes. I remember the non-violent protests in Providence RI and other places against the drug companies who were charging so much for new AIDS drugs, particularly AZT. And I vividly remember marching in Washington against the war in Vietnam, carrying the coffins of those eventually over 50,000 Americans who died in that war ….. but which latterly became such a monumental lesson to us (those who could “hear”) about the futility of attempting to deprive other human beings of freedom.
Cesar Chavez is an American who, through non-violence protest, taught us - in the words of the baptismal vows of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer - to “respect the dignity of every human being”. We have not learned the lesson well, alas. But Brother Cesar will always be a figure in our Life whose selflessness and compassion for underpaid and ill-treated workers reminded us of what it really means to be a true and patriotic American.
Cesar Chavez was in a sense powerless, but he could not be and was not defeated. America is the better for it. I am thankful for all those Christians and other religious folk who supported him and his union’s just cause.