The word “peace” derives from the Proto-Indo-European root “pag-,” which meant “to fasten.” Later, Latin speakers coined the word “pax” to mean “compact” or “agreement,” “treaty of peace,” “tranquility,” and “absence of war.’ Later still, English speakers, drawing from the French “paix” and Spanish “paz” settled on the word “peace” to mean “friendly relations between people.” It wasn’t until the 15th century that the English word “peace” came to also mean a “spiritual peace of the heart.”
You might notice that the words “resist” and “resistance” don’t seem to be related to “peace.” In fact, from a historical perspective “resistance and “peace” might seem to you to be at odds with each other. And they might still seem that way were it not for Mohandas K. Gandhi, an Indian anti-colonial lawyer and political ethicist who went on to lead the uprising against the British colonial rule.
As a younger man, Gandhi developed his philosophy of Nonviolent Resistance or using symbolic protest and noncooperation with the ruling powers. Nonviolent Resistance was the English term he preferred. But he called his philosophy “Satyagraha.” Satya means truth. Agraha means “insistence or holding to.” He pointed out that, in Sanskrit, truth doesn’t merely mean “factually correct.” Satya means “that which is.” According to Gandhi, truth, Satya, that which is, implies love. And “insistence” or “holding fast to” implies “force.” The force which is born of Truth and Love.
So, you see, Nonviolent Resistance, though effective, misses so much of the subtlety and power of Gandhi’s original thought. Later, Gandhi used other terms such as Truth Force, Love Force, Soul Force.
In his writings, Gandhi further clarified that, in any endeavor, the means and ends are inseparable. “By any means necessary” is never an option if one is to live in Truth.
Rather, the goal of any endeavor, political or otherwise, is to secure the cooperation of one’s opponent by means consistent with truth and justice.
We in the United States learned about Nonviolent Resistance from Martin Luther King, who was a keen student of Gandhi’s. King was drawn to Gandhi’s words “Love Force” and “Truth Force.” And these phrases fueled King’s own thinking as he solidified his approach to resisting the bigotry and systemic racism that polluted American government, culture, and even our founding document, the U.S. Constitution.
Excuse the history lesson, but the past is prologue, and it feels important to remind readers and all Americans of the ways in which peace and resistance are now and forever intertwined.
Last winter, when we at Writing for Peace chose “resistance” to be the theme for year’s DoveTales, we couldn’t have predicted the way in which “resistance” would become a central theme in the unfolding of this year. Certainly, we were aware that the Trump Administration had been so arrogantly unraveling our democratic institutions. We were aware of the Administration’s creep toward fascism, its fetishization of Power and Money, and its obsession with further alienating and exploiting the poor and people of color. So, yes, we thought “resistance” would be a suitable topic of discovery for our writers of DoveTales. However, we had no idea that 2020 would unfold in such a way that “resistance” would be the perfect theme, the only theme that would make sense. But who could have predicted this year’s events? Then came the pandemic, and further power grabbing by the Trump Administration to take advantage of the American people’s suffering and chaos. And then came the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the weeks of protests in the streets of hundreds of American cities. Which were then followed by the Trump Administrations hardline, constitutionally illegal response of using federal troops against its own people. As this edition of DoveTales goes to bed, the pandemic rages on and the Trump Administration continues to send federal troops into our cities to arrest and batter American citizens. Today, it feels as if we are living a nightmare, a far cry from any American Dream proposed by our forefathers.
Thankfully, the legacy of Gandhi, MLK, and others lives on. Even in 2020, Americans have embraced Nonviolent Resistance in their response to the evils du jour.
I want to extend a hearty thank you to all the essayists, poets, and artists who submitted their work to us. We were bowled over by both the quantity and quality of submissions.
I want to thank Carmel Mawle, Writing for Peace’s founder and lead visionary, as well as the members of the board and panel of advisors. I also want to thank Robert Kostuck for his editorial wisdom.
We hope you enjoy DoveTales and that the writing and art within these pages inspire you to live in a way that honors the legacy of Gandhi, King, John Lewis, and others.
In a democracy, as in life, we don’t do anything alone. It’s always a collective journey.
Brad Wetzler is an author, journalist, editor, and teacher. A former senior editor at Outside and former contributing editor at George and National Geographic Adventure magazines, Wetzler traveled the world writing articles about far-ranging topics including politics, exploration, the environment, travel, and sport. His articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Wired, GQ, National Geographic, Men’s Journal, Yoga Journal, Travel + Leisure, the Best American Travel Writing series, and many other publications. He is a former columnist for Outside and Universal Press Syndicate, and his book, Real Mosquitoes Don’t Eat Meat, was published by W.W. Norton’s Countryman Press. He is working on a travel memoir about faith, yoga, and the psychology of spiritual seeking. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he writes, edits, teaches yoga, and hikes the Front Range with his dog Tommy.
Copyright © 2020 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.