Several times over the last few days I have heard US government officials espouse non-violence as a recommendation to both the protesters and the Mubarak regime in Egypt (White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was the latest, in his morning press briefing). Of course this is a good thing. As a peace activist and advocate of non-violence, as a tactic, overarching philosophy of life, and as the best strategy to bring about social and political change, I’m glad to hear my government advocate non-violence. In addition to trying to influence events in Egypt so fewer people are killed or injured, such statements give support for a growing global norm in favor of nonviolence as the best method to express and resolve political and social conflicts.
However, I’m more than a little conflicted about this, as, simply put, the US govt. has little credibility, or experience, regarding the actual practice of nonviolence.
The US is still, by far, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. lamented during the Viet Nam war. Pick any measure — school bullying, violence against women, gun violence deaths and injuries, global military spending, weapons trafficking (#1 arms dealer to Egypt, as well as worldwide!), number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, occupying two countries at the same time — we are still, sadly, Number One or close to it.
Even President Obama, when he was (inexplicably, since he had just decided to escalate the war in Afghanistan) awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he expressed his admiration for King and Gandhi, but that, sadly, he had to govern in the real world and unfortunately war was still necessary and justified.
I’m not naive enough to think the US Government will suddenly become like Costa Rica, with no military. And I’m glad to hear government officials preach nonviolence. But they need to start practicing it, too.
Speaking of practitioners of nonviolence, our colleagues and she-roes at Code Pink have a team in Egypt right now, check out their reports.