To be honest, I’m not sure what non-violence is, but with all that’s going on I’m more curious than ever.
Big idea: Non-violence is less about the quality of ones reaction, and more about the quantity of ones present, state of mind.
A British occupier slaps Gandhi Ji in the face. Gandhi Ji turns to reveal his other cheek. But the crucial aspect here is not that Gandhi doesn’t lift his hand to strike back. No, the key is that Gandhi Ji had the presence of mind to see above and beyond the act.
I’ve been thinking more about Gandhi Ji a lot lately. It seems to me the most important global distinction is not race, is not gender, but rather the breakdown between violent and non-violent.
I grew up reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Tucked between the concrete stucco sheets of the suburbs, I peered into the pages of his juxtaposed journey through violence and non-violence. Now I live in New York City, and just the other day, on my way back from bowling at Harlem Lanes, I passed the Audobon Ballroom, where Malcolm Little cut a rug, met Laura, turned her feather-like feet out to the cold hard world. Laura, the immortalized good girl gone bad.
When I was young the only Indian person folks seemed to know about was Gandhi Ji. Here was a man who moved the world, and even he admitted to being violent towards his wife at one point in his life journey. Exactly a year ago I visited the site where he was assassinated. It is now a shrine of the footsteps of his words.
As an adult, I laid roots down in the Bay Area. I organized, protested, performed. And I engaged in discussions about non-violence. I’m still not exactly sure what non-violence means. But with war and peace raging worldwide, I am thinking about it more than ever.
Today’s Protest Against Violence Against Palestine (New York City)
I rode bikes with a sister-friend from Ditmas Park/Flatbush to Uptown Manhattan today. We spun down Bedford Avenue, through Caribbean, African-American, and Hasidic neighborhoods. And finally, after much adventure (thanks to George’s bike shop in LES for fixing my popped inner tube!), we made it to our destination. A marching home of thousands, powerful pockets of chants raised like fists, like peace signs, whole families marching against the violence in Palestine. This was not your average protest.
This poem is for the families that poured out in the thousands onto 5th avenue, a strip more packed with shoppers than almost any other. If Washington D.C. is the capital of government, New York City is the capital of capital. And capital is the blood of capitalism. So what better place to sound the drum of protest than in the midst of glib consumers, their eyes the hue of out of town glaze, their hands formed in the fists that clench shopping bags and temporary fulfillment like a shield against the cold world war.
“while you’re shopping, bombs are dropping”
trying/ a world dying to define/
do the crime/do the time
unless a violin note sublime
tilts the head back
slits the throat rack
of a land already bent back
picking cotton stuffed olives
by the sea
tune in for more.
love your fav political poet,