Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Sword that Heals

This weekend I found a battered copy of Martin Luther King jnr's book Why We Can't Wait, (Signet, 1963).  I am amazed at how moving it is to read, even despite my cultural, geographical, and chronological distance from the events.  Expect plenty of quotes over the next while:

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon.  It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.  It is a sword that heals. (p26)

The Negro turned his back on force not only because he knew he could not win his freedom through physical force but also because he believed that through physical force he could lose his soul. (p34)

Acceptance of nonviolent direct action was a proof of a certain sophistication on the part of the Negro masses; for it showed they dared to break with the old, ingrained concepts of our society.  The eye-for-an-eye philosophy, the impulse to defend oneself when attacked, has always been held as the highest measure of American manhood.  We are a nation that worships the frontier tradition, and our heroes are those who champion justice through violent retaliation against injustice.  It is not simple to adopt the credo that moral force has as much strength and virtue as the capacity to return a physical blow; or that to refrain from hitting back requires more will and bravery than the automatic reflex of defence. (p37)

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