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  • Writer's pictureDé Bryant, Ph.D.

Part I: Nonviolence is a concept.

Nonviolence is a concept. People whose names are recognized around the world represent its principles: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Theresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Real nonviolence is the ability to move from the abstract concept of greatness to everyday life, of ordinary people, making everyday choices. Or it is not about anything.

              It is people whose names will never be recorded in history books: the woman who runs the soup kitchen even though she is rousted every month by the local gang; the sister who can fill a city Commission meeting to capacity before a crucial vote on housing discrimination; surrogate mothers who have taken in a young person and are teaching them alternatives to lashing out at the world; neighbors bringing clothes and cooking meals for survivors of the latest natural disaster or military action war or ethnic pogrom. 

              As straightforward as this sounds, the process is convoluted, protracted, and often just plain exhausting. The reason is almost cliché: because we're all in this boat together and if we don't row together, we'll sink together; because if I don't speak up when they come for my fellow person, who will protest when they come for me; because the world is a global village, and it takes a village to raise a child. 

              In short, I am a believer. I believe in truth and honesty and faith and hope.  I believe in love and honor and loyalty and mercy.  I believe in forgiveness.

               I also believe that sometimes compassion must roar, and that spirituality can — and should — use teeth and claws. I believe that being nonviolent means living in paradox: to be a woman of peace who is not afraid of a knife fight.

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