by Jill Dalton
Who the heck is Arun Gandhi, you might ask. He’s the fifth grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India who led India to independence and inspired civil rights and freedom movements across the globe by employing nonviolent civil disobedience tactics. Arun is also a peace activist in his own right. He’s the President of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, and travels the world speaking about the practices of peace and nonviolence. For over thirty years he was a journalist for The India Times, and currently writes a blog for The Washington Post.
On Sunday, March 23rd, 2014, thirteen years after Arun Gandhi first came to Unity of New York and spoke on forgiveness in the aftermath of 9/11, I had the honor and privilege to hear both Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi speak. The title of their talk was, “Lightning or Lamp?”
As fate would have it, Bethany Hegedus, an aspiring or (to use her term) “pre-published” writer, had escaped the Twin Towers on 9/11 and was sitting in the audience that evening in 2001 listening to Arun tell stories about his famous grandfather. As she listened she thought, “These stories need to be told, and put into a picture book.” She’d never done a picture book or even thought about doing one, but the message was implanted in her.
She emailed Arun and thus began their collaboration, which culminated in, “Grandfather Gandhi” a beautiful picture book illustrated by Evan Turk who was 14 years old at the time Bethany and Arun first spoke.
Their newly published book tells of a young boy, Arun Gandhi, more interested in imitating John Wayne or playing bank robbers and sheriff than doing his studies, suffering from guilt over his anger at an older boy who shoved him while playing soccer, “How could he, a Gandhi, be so easy to anger?” Arun ran to his grandfather’s hut knowing, “I’d never live up to the Mahatma. I’d never be at peace.” He’d never seen his grandfather angry and was surprised to learn that yes, even his grandfather felt anger. “Do not be ashamed, we all feel anger,” replied the Mahatma. “Anger is like electricity. Anger can strike like lightning and split a living tree in two.” “Or it can be channeled, transformed. A switch can be flipped, and it can shed light like a lamp.”
Arun Gandhi is quite unassuming and speaks in calm hushed tones but his message was direct and clear.
Violence is destroying humanity. 9/11’s happen everyday around the globe. Violence, destruction, and the killing of people happens everyday somewhere. We need to wake up to this. Violence is growing more and more, and yet we claim to be civilized. We are not civilized. We must change our thinking. The people who believe change is possible are assassinated. We put our peace leaders on pedestals but they expect us to follow them.
Gandhi told Arun shortly before his assassination,
They will follow me in life, worship me in death, but they will not make my cause their cause.
Arun encouraged us to,
Wake up and make their dream our dream, and create a better world. Peace will come through children. They must be taught the right behavior. Anger is the force that leads to the violence we experience. 80% of violence is generated by anger. Learn to use anger constructively. We don’t acknowledge our anger. Anger is wonderful. It is the fuel to an automobile. Without anger we won’t act. We need to be ashamed of how we use it. Use it to bring light to civilization.
Arun describes himself as a peace farmer.
A farmer goes out, and plants seeds. They hope the harvest will manifest. I plant the seeds of peace in you, and all of us together can change the world.
Violence is indeed destroying the world. We are a culture that glorifies war and violence. It’s everywhere. In our movies, television shows, commercials, cartoons, glossy magazine ads. Our largest export is war and weapons. We’re the largest weapons manufacturer in the world.
Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals. New York Times, August 28, 2012.
And even though the overall violent crime rate in the U.S. continues to drop our police forces are becoming more and more militarized, and they are employing violence against U.S. citizens at alarming rates.
What we have here is the absurdly dangerous militarization of America’s police departments. Our sprawling Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon (which gave the MRAP to Bastrop) are haphazardly spreading war equipment, war techniques and a war mentality to what are supposed to be our communities’ peacekeepers and crime solvers. Jim Hightower, “The Dangerous Militarization of Our Local Police Forces.”
And there’s plenty of money for the militarization of our police forces. A recent article in the Economist, “Cops or Soldiers?” cites Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop.”
Federal cash—first to wage war on drugs, then on terror—has paid for much of the heavy weaponry used by SWAT teams. Between 2002 and 2011 the Department of Homeland Security disbursed $35 billion in grants to state and local police. Also, the Pentagon offers surplus military kit to police departments. According to Mr. Balko, by 2005 it had provided such gear to more than 17,000 law-enforcement agencies.
These programs provide useful defensive equipment, such as body armor and helmets. But it is hard to see why Fargo, North Dakota—a city that averages fewer than two murders a year—needs an armored personnel-carrier with a rotating turret. Keene, a small town in New Hampshire, which had three homicides between 1999 and 2012, spent nearly $286,000 on an armored personnel-carrier known as a BearCat. The local police chief said it would be used to patrol Keene’s “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations”. A Reason-Rupe poll found that 58% of Americans think the use of drones, military weapons and armored vehicles by the police has gone “too far”.
And there’s big money to be made by using excessive force and SWAT raids on U.S. citizens, which is now legal due to a ruling by the Supreme Court which allows, “that police may enter a house without knocking if they have ‘a reasonable suspicion’ that announcing their presence would be dangerous or allow the suspect to destroy evidence (for example, by flushing drugs down the toilet).”
Because of a legal quirk, SWAT raids can be profitable. Rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow the police to seize anything, which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime. Crucially, the property-owner need not be convicted of that crime. If the police find drugs in his house, they can take his cash and possibly the house, too. He must sue to get them back.
Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarization, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs.
Balko is also concerned about the type of recruit our forces are now enlisting.
Mr. Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence (“We get up early to beat the crowds”; “You huff and you puff and we’ll blow your door down”).
Throughout history totalitarian regimes have always turned against their citizens. We are no exception. U.S. citizens have been turned into the “other.” We’re now the enemy. We’re all potential terrorists. These police forces are no longer here to protect and serve us. They are occupying our cities and towns under the guise of keeping the peace. According to John W. Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute, which is dedicated to the defense of our civil liberties and human rights.
The point is this: America today is not much different from the America of the early colonists, who had to contend with British soldiers who were allowed to “enter private homes, confiscate what they found, and often keep the bounty for themselves.” This practice is echoed today through SWAT team raids and the execution of so-called asset forfeiture laws, “which allow police to seize and keep for their departments cash, cars, luxury goods and even homes, often under only the thinnest allegation of criminality.”
Terrorism, the current catchall word, allows our government, the FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, and police forces to do whatever they want without having to show probable cause, and without being held accountable for their actions. They might as well say the boogieman is coming. When I was a kid it was the “commies” that were going to get us. The Domino Theory assured us they would take over the world one country at a time, and enabled us to go into Vietnam because of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, yet another trumped up lie.
The U.S. is the largest terrorist organization on the planet, and it needs to stop. We must wake up to the violence being committed everyday around the globe, as the American people stand idly by, while millions are murdered in our name. We must stand up en masse and demand a better way. Demand our illegal wars of aggression, claiming to be about democracy and freedom, cease. We’re like the Germans in WWII who turned a blind eye when Hitler was doing his dirty work until it was too late.
And our corporate media is nothing but lies and propaganda used to brainwash the masses. The information is out there—hiding in plain sight, but most don’t want to look. It seems we prefer to live in denial watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians or playing Angry Birds. Like any co-dependent relationship, we are the enablers to this criminal enterprise hell bent on global empire, and destroying anything that gets in the way of world domination.
The fear, lies and propaganda our leaders use to sell these bogus wars are shameful. Why does anyone still believe anything they say? Terrorism is not the problem. Muslims are not the problem. The problem is the U.S. invades sovereign countries to steal their oil and other natural resources.
I’m furious over what is going on in this country. We have turned into a massive surveillance state embroiled in over 100 military actions around the globe. Billions are spent on these wars, as food stamps and unemployment benefits are cut, education homogenized, tax cuts for the rich renewed, corporate welfare abounds, and our infrastructure crumbles. There are no jobs and no jobs bill. Our callous politicians turn a blind eye to the suffering of the American people and merely serve their corporate puppet masters.
We pretend to be a nation of laws, however, not one banker has been prosecuted or even questioned about their role in the economic global collapse, and not one politician has been held accountable for taking us into Iraq based on deceit and lies. And we continue exporting war, death and destruction under the guise of democracy and freedom. Our civil liberties have been stripped from us to “keep us safe.” This is just another ruse endlessly touted by the corporate media whores and our bought and paid for politicians.
Our current system is broken. It no longer serves the planet or us, and it’s not sustainable. It’s built on debt, poverty, lies, slavery, world domination, patriarchy and war. It’s time for a new paradigm. A just and decent world is possible. We can live in a world in which there is no hunger or poverty. We can live in harmony, dignity and prosperity. It’s time to take responsibility and stand up to the heartless thugs in the White House and Congress. We need to tell them we’re not buying their bullshit lies any more or their fear tactics, and while we’re at it we want our civil liberties back.
“A wave of action is coming on April 4th, the date they killed MLK, the date Cindy Sheehan lost her son, the date cherry blossoms and resisters to fascism begin to show after an endless winter of many, many years. Take a look at https://waveofaction.org”
Like Gandhi said, it’s time to channel our anger, turn on the light and move into action. Together we can build a peaceful world. The decision is ours.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.