A Stance of Non-Violence, Revisited
When non-violence in speech, thought and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.
~Yoga Sūtra II.35 of Patañjali.
On the evening of September 11, 2001, I had a yoga class scheduled. Knowing yoga always cleared my mind, I decided not to skip it. It was a small class that night; most stayed home to watch coverage, I suppose. We quietly got our mats laid out and ourselves seated to begin class. We were all shocked and sad.
The yoga instructor, Becky, was as equally dumbfounded as we were. We sat together, her facing us. She read to us the “yama” (ethical discipline) of “ahiṃsā” (non-violence); she read to us the above-cited yoga sūtra. She explained that on such a day as that Tuesday was, it was hard to adhere to an idea of non-violence. But that revenge in the way of a counter-attack or, well, VIOLENCE was to be abhorred.
That night, I disagreed with Becky. Not verbally, but in my thoughts. To me, America HAD to show force; to exact revenge; to show strength. And Bush then gave us a tough talking to that made me glad he was President instead of Gore.
But then the Bush Administration got things muddled with lies of WMD. And we went to war in Iraq based on those lies. And we, America, are still paying a very high price. And for what? Revenge. As bizarre as it all is, Bush used our desire to capture bin Laden to instead go after Hussein. But we, America, were so lustful for blood, we greedily signed on to war in the Middle East in hopes it would sate our appetite.
I admit now that I was wrong on the night of 9/11. That theory of non-violence was right. Sure, we must respond to attacks. But we need not resort to violence. It is NOT all there is in the way of dealing with evil in this world.
* * *
Tonight, May 1, 2011, on the heels of the news of the death of Osama bin Laden, I am reminded of my own words. Now we have another death on our hands, with countless soldiers’ lives for which to account as well. And it’s not over. The war on terrorism rages on. The followers of bin Laden now will want to exact their revenge.
War and politics are serious businesses, and there’s nothing new about either. Politicians jockey themselves and the facts to their best advantage, and citizens turn a blind eye so long as their own personal lives aren’t overly hampered.
Americans would do well, myself included, not to be too proud over the death of our enemy. Many others will gladly step up to replace the one down. Our pride can blind us to that hate and heighten it in those that wish us harm.
When will it be enough for Americans to tend her own garden, leave “spreading democracy” to foreign lands alone? We are a smug people. We are too full of ourselves, our great country, to conceive that others may not agree with us and our vision of government and may in fact take offense to our presence in their country to fiddle with their government. Now images of us literally dancing in the streets over the death of one many considered a hero will be splashed all over the world news.
Would it really be so hard to accept the news of this assassination with solemnity and appreciation that it could be a symbol for a step toward real peace? Rather, we choose to let the message go out that we are a ruthless, vengeful, gloating people. Laughing in the face of danger, too hyped up on which side, left or right, to give proper credit, to see that very little, in fact, was accomplished regarding the war on terrorism in the death of bin Laden.
And we wonder why so many in this world have an unkind image of Americans.