Hope, fidelity and persistence: John Dear’s speech at the Twin Cities NV March

We stand on the brink of global destruction, called to choose nonviolence, justice, disarmament and peace.
(Twin Cities Nonviolent)

Fifty years ago, the night before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. said “The choice is no longer violence or nonviolence. It’s nonviolence or nonexistence.” That’s where we stand today dear friends–on the brink of global destruction, called to choose nonviolence, justice, disarmament, and peace. This whole culture of violence, racism, corporate greed, permanent war, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction has got to go. Everything has to change and the only way that’s going to happen is through a global bottom up people power grassroots movement of nonviolence the likes of which the world has ever seen! That’s what you are doing today!

So we have a choice: we can give up, say there’s nothing that can be done and do nothing, OR we can rise to the occasion, redouble our efforts and become the people Dr. King imagined—the ones who help lead humanity back from the brink of non-existence into something the world has never seen–a new culture of justice, nonviolence and peace. That’s what I invite you to today–to rise to the occasion, to become people of active nonviolence now and for the rest of your lives.

The good news is that Dr. King says that we can do this, that we are not powerless, which is what the culture wants us to believe. He defined nonviolence as power. He said there’s a way out, a way forward, a way toward a new future of peace through active, creative, organized, bottom up, people power, grassroots nonviolence. We can change the world if we organize in grassroots movements of resistance and social transformation.

Dr. King and Gandhi say active nonviolence begins with the vision of a reconciled humanity, the truth that we are all equal sisters and brothers, all children of the God of peace, already reconciled, all one with creation. Nonviolence is not passive; in the face of global violence, nonviolence means active organized love that pursues the truth of this common unity and seeks justice, disarmament and peace for the whole human race and creation!

We resist systemic evil; persistently reconcile with everyone; disarm our hearts; practice unconditional, all-inclusive, all-encompassing, non-retaliatory, sacrificial, universal love—with one catch: there is no cause however noble for which we support the killing of a single human being. We do not kill people; we do not kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong; we work to end all the killings, and the root causes of war and injustice, and we will educate and train everyone in nonviolent conflict resolution and institutionalize nonviolence and create new cultures of nonviolence. That’s the only sane way forward.

(Twin Cities Nonviolent)

No, they say, there’s nothing we can do. One of the casualties of our culture of violence is the loss of the imagination; people can’t imagine St. Paul/Minneapolis without violence, or a world without war and violence. We have no vision; we can’t see the way forward. Our violence has blinded us. We have to help people reclaim the imagination for peace; to help people see a way forward. We have to offer a new vision. That’s what the Abolitionists did. They said, “Excuse me America, we are announcing the abolition of slavery.” And they were told, “There’s always been slavery. There’s nothing you can do.” And they said, “No.  A new world of equality is coming.” They lifted up a new vision of equality, a world without slavery, where everyone is equal and they built a movement to make that happen. Dear friends, we are their ancestors. So today we say, “Excuse me St. Paul/Minneapolis. Excuse me, America. Today, we are announcing the abolition of war, poverty, racism, nuclear weapons and environmental destruction and the coming of a new world of nonviolence.”

Next week is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. Here’s what he said:

Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world. One person who can express nonviolence in life exercises a force superior to all the forces of brutality. My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop nonviolence. The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes, till it overwhelms your surroundings and by and by might oversweep the world.

We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence.

Dear friends, two thirds of the world are now engaged in grassroots movements of nonviolence. There have been 85 nonviolent revolutions in the past forty years. Research now proves that Gandhi was right, where nonviolence was tried over the last 100 years, it worked much better than violence and warfare in resolving conflict peacefully and bringing about nonviolent democracy.  

This week Campaign Nonviolence.org organized its sixth national week of action, and we have over 3300 actions/marches/vigils and events around the country, connecting the dots between the issues of violence, and calling for a new culture of nonviolence. Even if we don’t live to see the results of our actions, we will keep at it, knowing that Gandhi was right, that active nonviolence works, that a new culture of justice, disarmament and peace is coming. As Gandhi said, “Full effort is full victory!”  

(Twin Cities Nonviolent)

Yesterday, the Climate Strike around the world brought out over 4 million people in 130 countries covering every continent, including 800 events across the U.S. The movement is moving. As we come here to the State Capitol, we say what 16 year old Swedish activist, Greta Thonberg, has been saying: “We have not come here to beg our leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses, and we are running out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to us the people.”

Today, I invite you to pursue a new vision for St. Paul/Minneapolis, to work for a new nonviolent St. Paul/Minneapolis, “Twin Cities Nonviolent,” to connect the dots between every form of violence and seek a more holistic, city-wide, state-wide nonviolence, which means, we work to cut the roots of our culture of violence, to end racism, poverty, homelessness, child hunger, gun violence, as well as local support for war and environmental destruction; to end police violence and train and institutionalize police nonviolence; to end domestic violence and teach nonviolence between spouses, and nonviolence toward all children; to end gang violence and teach nonviolence to former gang members; to teach nonviolence in every school to every student in every grade; to reform our prisons and educate guards and prisoners in nonviolence and move toward restorative justice; to end environmental destruction and pursue alternative energy; and to get rid of our nuclear weapons and make sure every sector of the city advocates nonviolence, that the police are nonviolent; the religious communities preach nonviolence; the schools teach nonviolence; the killings stop, the guns are put away, the support of all war ends, and the city council institutionalizes citywide structures of nonviolence.

Your mission is to lift up this vision of nonviolence and work for a new nonviolent St. Paul/Minneapolis, a new nonviolent Minnesota and a nonviolent North America; to take this vision and make it possible and believable and probable, so that it becomes contagious and then, inevitable.

Dear friends, we can no longer afford the luxury of do-nothing despair. We can no longer leave it to someone else to stand up and speak out. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. This is the new normal—Saturdays are for marching. As my friend Daniel Berrigan told me long ago, “If you want to be hopeful, you have to do hopeful things.”

Just before he was killed Dr. King announced his definition of hope. Hope, he said, is the final refusal to give up. So like Dr. King, we’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep marching and walking for peace, keep resisting, keep speaking out, keep organizing, keep agitating, keep practicing and teaching nonviolence, and keep on working for a new culture of nonviolence here and everywhere. No matter what. That’s what’s going to make the difference. Our fidelity. Our persistence. Our refusal to go away.

That’s what you are doing today. That’s your job from now on, to be full time nonviolent agitators, activists, teachers, champions, prophets, pioneers, troublemakers and visionaries of nonviolence, to be peacemakers, God’s beloved sons and daughters, heralds of a new nonviolent St. Paul/Minneapolis; heralds of a whole new world of peace and nonviolence! Thank you and God bless you.

For videos and other coverage of the Twin Cities Nonviolent Actions, check out their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/TwinCitiesNonviolent/

This story was produced by Campaign Nonviolence

Campaign Nonviolence, a project of Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, is working for a new culture of nonviolence by connecting the issues to end war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction. We organize The Nonviolent Cities Project and the annual Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions.

Waging Nonviolence partners with other organizations and publishes their work.