PERPETRATED BY THE STATE
We must applaud state actors when they encourage civilians to exercise nonviolence in their engagement with one another and when they express grievances against the state. We desperately need everyone to help set the tone for creating and setting in motion a culture of peace.
And yet, too often state actors encourage nonviolence while they simultaneously espouse and execute policies and practices that are either violent in and of themselves or that cultivate violence both internationally and nationally. This contradiction we must resolve by adopting policies that align our international and national interests with the principles and practices of nonviolence. In fact, we are urged to ask of the state what the state asks of us, and to change radically the state’s instrumental role in nurturing violence within and beyond our borders.
Proxy wars, our war on “terror,” drone strikes, continued military build-up around the globe, shadow wars conducted by U.S. Special forces, unabashed support for brutal, undemocratic regimes, arms production and dealing – ours is a war culture, our economy a war economy, and our democracy a war democracy. Indeed, our country has been at war “almost continuously since the end of World War II,” and “if one defines the term ‘war’ as the application of organized violence, the U.S. has engaged in close to 80 wars since 1945.”
Behind that number lays the carnage of our wars: the lives of humans and other sentient beings destroyed; the bodies maimed; the minds traumatized; the communities torn asunder; the contamination and destruction of natural resources. That number – 80 wars –truly betrays a crisis, a “deeper malady,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. once put it, “in the American spirit.”
To heal that spirit, we need a nonviolent foreign policy – one that does not shy away from making nonviolence central to diplomacy; supporting materially nonviolent movements in nations where civilians are seeking freedom from political repression; addressing the gender dynamics of violence, and, making violence a last resort to resolving conflicts. We believe that a diplomatic approach geared toward supporting nonviolent activists on the ground would have made a difference in the success of the Arab Spring, for example, and that it can make a difference in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian as well as other seemingly irresolvable conflicts.
A Nonviolent Alternative
- We must significantly decrease our military spending, which accounts for approximately 50 percent of the world’s military spending. Ultimately, these huge expenditures constitute both a physical war and an economic war against the most vulnerable – poor children, women and men.
- We must go beyond the Iran Nuclear Agreement and abolish nuclear weapons altogether.
- We must cease to fund as well as sell weapons to repressive, anti-democratic regimes.
- We must support “international gun control” and, over the next 30 years, phase out altogether arms production and sales.
- We must redefine our allies as those nations that are committed, and that are taking the necessary steps to adhere, to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. We should not, however, define those who do not adhere to the Declaration as our enemies.
- We need to reorient our foreign policy so that it elevates diplomacy over drone strikes, interrelatedness over exceptionalism. To this end, we must democratize and invest fully in the United Nations as well as participate in multilateral actions that promote nonviolence, reconciliation, and peace.
- We must permanently “remove war as an instrument of foreign policy.” To this end, we must phase out over the next 30 years the Department of Defense and replace it with a Department of Peace. The purpose of this new department will be to develop effective strategies for waging nonviolence and support systems for civilians who seek our assistance in transforming nonviolently their societies into nations of peace and justice.
- If we must resort to violence, our policy should be that we will do so only if no other peaceful alternative exists; our purpose is reconciliation, not retribution; we have – from the outset – a framework for reintegrating the other nation (or non-state actors) into the community of nations; and, the violence we inflict has the specific effect that we seek.
- We must lend whatever effective financial, technical, political, and diplomatic support and protection that we can to civilians who seek freedom from repression through nonviolent means, and whose goals align with the principles of nonviolence and peace.
- When civilians initially begin to challenge nonviolently repressive regimes, we must from the outset make known that we stand ready and willing to support their nonviolent efforts and goals if they so request.
- We need to address the crises in the Middle East by pivoting and redirecting resources toward nonviolent activism on the ground, while simultaneously taking ownership of our historic and present role in these crises so as to begin a process of diplomacy and reconciliation; to develop a framework for reparations; and to realign our commitments in that region to the principles of nonviolent coexistence.
- We must seek membership to the International Criminal Court, submit to its jurisdiction, and by so doing allow those who have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity to be brought to justice.
- We must renounce and strictly prohibit torture once and for all.
- We must phase out over the next 30 years both the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. In the spirit of disarmament, transparency, accountability, and reparations, we must release to the public all intelligence records.
To conform to the imperatives of our endless war on “terror,” we have militarized many of our nation’s police forces – from police departments in small rural towns to those in major urban centers. At the same time, we have increasingly come to rely on law enforcement to make up for our failure to adequately address the needs of those harmed by our nation’s onward march to extreme economic inequality. That is, we have been steadily transforming law enforcement into “an oppressive apparatus” by which to manage both economic and “social inequality in an era of obsolescence.”
As a consequence, many police have become, and are often experienced by many as, antagonists whose purpose is not to protect and serve, but instead to repress and control – for the benefit of the powerful and for those who are more economically secure. Indeed, for those “who live in areas where the informal economy is dominant,” police brutality and police killings of unarmed children, women and men are all too common. And because African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to live in such areas – the result of historic and current patterns and practices of racial subordination and segregation – they are more likely to be victims of such policing, which is itself driven, in too many instances, by racial and class animus.
But policing is not the only way the state perpetrates physical violence. It does so as well through its punishment apparatus. Overcrowded prisons, solitary confinement and, of course, capital punishment are just a few examples. And as is the case with violent policing, it is the poor and primarily African American and Hispanic poor who suffer most from these practices.
We must therefore completely reimagine and restructure law enforcement into something entirely different – namely, nonviolence and peace enforcement. In the process, we must reject punishment — as civil rights pioneer and nonviolent activist Bayard Rustin once advised — and develop instead a model of “true rehabilitation” premised on “the terrific healing and therapeutic power of forgiveness and nonviolence.”
A Nonviolent Alternative
- We must demilitarize our police forces. We can no longer accept law enforcement policies and practices that normalize as democratic the trappings of a police state.
- We must also disarm the police – with the exception of specially trained officers whose purpose would be to contend with civilians who gain access to or use weapons in the commission of crimes.
- We must require local, state, and national law enforcement to maintain and provide to the public records on police shootings that result in injury and death – whether they occur in or out of custody.
- We must invest in retraining the police to serve not as domestic arms of the war on terror, but instead as community peace officers skilled at nonviolent communication, engagement, and de-escalation.
- We must establish and federally fund independent civilian review boards for all police departments, the memberships of which must include a cross-section of the communities which the departments serve.
- We must require and federally fund body cameras for law enforcement officers as well as train officers in the use of force that is effective and yet non-harming, as well as compassionate – particularly when it comes to encounters with those suffering from mental illness.
- We must establish in the Department of Justice a Racial Profiling Unit, the purpose of which will be to monitor and collect data on police encounters with communities of color, to take corrective action where necessary, and to investigate and prosecute aggressively law enforcement violations of communities’ civil rights.
- We must pass a constitutional amendment that abolishes the death penalty.
- We must abolish solitary confinement, a violent tool of incarceration that is both cruel and unusual.
When we require “all male U.S. citizens…who are 18 through 25” to register with Selective Service, we not only rationalize war, violence, conflict, and the senseless slaughter of young men; we also reinforce male violence as well as women’s subordination.
But that is not all. As Bayard Rustin noted about conscription during World War II, Selective Service “denies brotherhood,” for its “design and purpose” is to set children, women and men apart. When we set one another apart, we can kill, maim and slaughter with a clear conscience, and even do so in the name of peace.
A Nonviolent Alternative
- We must repeal the Selective Service Act in its entirety.
PERPETRATED BY CIVILIANS
Gun violence – perpetrated by domestic terrorists, those engaged in criminal activity, “lone wolf” mass shooters, and average, gun-owning citizens – is wreaking havoc on individuals, families, communities, as well as on our country’s stature with other nations. On average, more than 108,000 people in the United States are – over the course of 365 days – injured or killed by guns. That means that on average, 297 people are shot every day. Thirty-percent of those shot die from their gunshot wounds – that’s at least 32,514 people per year.
Clearly, our guns have purchased neither safety nor peace.
The time is long overdue for our nation to adopt robust gun policies that honestly come to grips with this level of civilian physical violence – which means, first and foremost, framing gun ownership itself as violence and addressing it accordingly.
It also means confronting an inconvenient truth about gun violence that rarely gets the media and policy-driven attention it deserves – namely, that gun violence is disproportionately perpetrated by teenage boys and men. It means confronting the fact that the vast majority of domestic terrorists, lone wolf mass shooters, and perpetrators of violent crimes involving guns are males. And it means facing the fact that male-perpetrated gun violence often goes hand-in-hand with domestic violence and violence against women.
To remake the United States into the greatest purveyor of nonviolence, we clearly need policies that directly upend the ownership of guns, that confront the gender dynamics of gun and other types of violence, and that will, in the process, help to transform how our culture defines masculinity.
A Nonviolent Alternative
- We must repeal District of Columbia v. Heller, the United States Supreme court decision that interprets the Second Amendment as guaranteeing “an individual right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense.”
- We must ban all private ownership of guns and adopt strict penalties for the possession of firearms and ammunition.
- We must develop, train and fund civilian, on-the-ground community peacekeeping units that will maintain an atmosphere of nonviolence as well as act as liaisons between communities and police departments.
- We must federally fund the creation of primary and secondary public school curriculum and trainings that teach nonviolent communication and physical play and that explicitly do so from the imperative to transform the gender dynamics of physical violence.
- We need to require that peace and nonviolence studies classes are included as part of the core curriculum of public primary and secondary schools. History is too often presented to students as war and conflict, and too little as conflict resolution, nonviolence, and peace.
- We must federally fund community organizing, education, and other initiatives that seek to transform – in homes, schools, and communities – the gender dynamics of physical violence as well as help civilians to create cultures of nonviolence.
- We must invest in community-based nonviolence and conflict resolution centers that will help citizens resolve disputes peacefully.
We must provide resources for nonviolent parenting training, as well as provide tax incentives for parents to undertake such training.