Outside a Joan Baez concert a couple nights ago in Idaho Falls, four Vietnam veterans protested the show with signs reading: “JOAN BAEZ – SOLDIERS DON’T KILL BABIES, LIBERALS DO” and “JOAN BAEZ GAVE COMFORT & AID TO OUR ENEMY IN VIETNAM & ENCOURAGED THEM TO KILL AMERICANS!”
Rather than ignore the protest, which would have been the easiest thing to do, or get into a nasty argument with the men about their signs, Baez choose to engage them in an exemplary nonviolent fashion. According to Daily Kos:
Joan was informed that the men were protesting her concert about an hour before it was due to begin and she immediately walked out onto the street to talk to them. When she approached, one of the first things they said was “We appreciate the work you did on civil rights and women’s rights.” They wanted to make that point clear.
She listened closely as they discussed their views. Primarily, they wanted to express the way they felt betrayed by anti-war protesters when they returned from combat. Joan assured them that she stood by them then and now. They had mixed reactions as she explained her actual positions and her support for all veterans, across the board.
The protesters at first were hardened in their position, and it sounds like at different points the conversations did get quite tense. However, Baez’s calm, nonviolent approach to the conflict had an effect:
…Joan’s continuing acceptance of their stories and her willingness to hear them out began to melt their anger. In a twist that seems hard to fathom, they then asked her to SIGN THEIR POSTERS! She replied that she would sign the back but not the front of “those horrible things.” Incredibly, the man with the baby-killing sign replied that he would take her name off the poster if she would sign it.
She did end up signing them, and also getting copies of her book for each of them, and offering tickets to the show, which they did not accept. She signed the back of the poster about her encouraging the killing of American soldiers – “All the very best to you, Joan Baez.”
During the concert afterwards Joan dedicated a song to the protesters and said “You know, they just wanted to be heard. Everyone wants to be heard. I feel like I made four new friends tonight.”
While I don’t know anywhere near as much about Baez as I would like, she seems to really embody nonviolence and understand what it’s all about. Her approach to this potentially ugly situation is something that we should all take note of, especially as the right wing steps up its protest against health care reform and government action on climate change. It can be extremely difficult and won’t always work, but love, respect and a sincere openness to engage the opponent in conversation is the only way we will ever be able to win over those we disagree with.
To read a wonderful and humorous story that Baez wrote about nonviolence, click here.
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opponent in conversation is the only way we will ever be able to win over those we disagree with.
im tired of liberal pricks preaching tolerance while being unable to tolerate a difference of opinion
That’s funny! You talk about tolerance in the exact same sentence you say “I’m tired of liberal pricks..” I bet not many other people ‘got’ your ‘joke’ 😉 !!
By the way, did anyone else show up for the concert apart from the protesters?
Deep beneath the thick, putrid pus of American propaganda lies very a frightened, confused, misled abused and much maligned peon, just little boys and girls really, tied up in a horrifying game of mass murder and empire building, oil extortion, real estate swindles, the “Own a gas guzzler or else” rip-off, corporatism’s victimization and worst of all a “fiat” money system driven by debt, their debt,the peons debt, the proletariats debt, to enrich the Super-Rich Uber-class and keep them in Caviar and Opium! America has become the “Evil Empire” to replace the former U.S.S.R. and all other peon exploiters of all time! Iraqis were terrified at becoming American slaves, not rejoicing liberation, but shunning American affiliation, because, as mal-treated as they had been, they were not propagandized to accept the mind bending propaganda Americans think normal to stay sane, so contrasted by Muslim teachings as to be clearly wrong! When the American people are able to see the truth about themselves and their country, When the truth is finally out,when the reality of being and American is really told in simple terms to an accepting intelligent crowd, when the Chinese show the new way in the world for sustainable survival, and before the coming of a new Christ, Americans will get a chance to rebuild, not based of avarice, greed, brute force, and A-bomb threats, and the world and America will benefit and a new golden age will flourish for mankind, Asian and American and the world all pulling together for survival! In the mean-time, America will trample the world, ravage it for oil, then Uranium, and follow the miscreant corporatism at its soul to a very sad lifestyle for all mankind in general, Americanized, by force, under the thumb of the mighty capitalist and his corporate law, the code of the psychopath given life by huge armed forces and unrelenting bully police states, fired up by advertising propagandists, even putting Hitler and his ravings to a minor and shabby role in History, a godless force leading the way, the soulless corporation with power unending trodding on all that is man, all that is beautiful in the world! Suffocating the virgin, castrating the boy, defiling the woman, and disgracing the man, for a few sheckles more!
This is wild! Thanks so much for sharing!
Proof possitive, once again that non-violence requires much more courage and produces much better results than a fool using a gun to enforce his will on others.
Thank you for the post, but I am concerned about your comment that listening and engaging someone in conversation is “the only way we will ever be able to win over those we disagree with.” Listening is a powerful nonviolent tool when engaging people opposing us, but true engagement involves opening ourselves to change. The goal is not to simply win someone over to our side. Part of making ourselves vulnerable is realizing that the process changes all involved. Through listening carefully, you may be surprised to find that on some things, they make sense. Joan Baez found 4 new friends even though the 5 of them did not all agree on everything when they parted. She did not “win the over” to her side, she made friends. That, to me, is more the goal of nonviolence, to show love and make friends and keep communication open despite disagreements on very important issues. It is NOT about one side winning. It’s about everyone winning!
I think you’re absolutely right Susan. Thanks for pointing that out. I wish I would have added that message to the post as well. What you said is very much in line with Gandhi’s approach to nonviolence.
Ultimately we do need to enter dialogue with an openness to hear out other opinions and reconsider our own positions, which can be extremely difficult. We all have only a piece of the truth and can learn a great deal from others’ perspectives.
Okay there sweetheart. I’m sure Ms. Baez is a wonderful person and truthfully I respect anyone who has the stones to stand for their beliefs. However, I find your tone to be a bit troubling.
First, why is it that you paint the veterans as potentially hostile and her as a saint? I don’t know if you’re aware, but the US Government instituted a draft during Vietnam. In case you’re not familiar with this, it’s when politicians in Washington assume the higher power to enslave their citizenry and then deliver to this newly acquired property the Ultimatum. Prison and disgrace or 17 – 20 years old and told that you have to kill other humans if you wanna live. Now all this was whitewashed with patriotism, blatant corruption, and a truly honorable but naive citizenry that believed their government was doing right by them. All in the name of protecting the rights Ms. Baez used to help diminish and degrade and demonize the real victims of Vietnam. The North and South were already in a civil war before we got there. Then LBJ showed us how to lose thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and a war that we had no right to wage.
All this going on to her own countrymen. The North and South Vietnamese believed in their cause and were the makings of a volunteer army. I don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say these men were obviously deeply hurt by this woman’s complete and total hatred for them. And if you think hatred too strong a word I would say ask yourself why she rooted for the American to die and the NVA to live. Do you have to have brown or yellow skin to have rights? (Which some vets had)
Secondly, your obvious attempt to censor the views of the tea party protesters. Again with the Nancy Pelosi style “rhetoric” and fake terror. How many arrests were made on 9/12 in DC, for violent destruction of private property as well as police? I don’t know for sure, but I am told none. What’s Copenhagen’s numbers look like? You need not concern yourself with conservative protesters. It is the left that has a long history of violence. Miss I would suggest listening to the wise one above this that pointed out the importance of listening. Perhaps not learning history from self absorbed burned out hippies would also help.
I am not sure why google sent me to this blog but I need to say I am now quite captivated by the comments you have aggregated together. How many years did it take this many internet users to your site? I am very new to this interenet thing.
Wow. Ms. Baez is a very classy lady.
Joan Baez did not “hate” American soldiers; she hated the war and the violence therein. Not many people recall that in the late 70’s, she took out a full-page ad in The New York Times calling to task the communist Vietnamese government for human rights violations. Oddly enough(or not), she had a hard time getting friends on the left to sign on to her statement. I believe Ed Asner was among the few celebrities to support her on this. She grew up a Quaker and has lived a life dedicated to non-violence, human rights, and freedom. Being anti-war does not equate to being anti-American.