Commitment to Nonviolence
As a Board member of the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, I’d like to comment on your August “From the Editor” column. In it, you justified various illegal actions (including theft and property damage) if done as self-defense against oppression. I know you to be a person of compassion and justice, and I think I understand your intentions. I am, though, troubled by the broad scope of quasi-violent activity you have sanctioned without qualification. In my estimation, what is justifiable, and when, demands more thought and definition than your simple declaration “I don’t get upset” suggests.
After years of thought about nonviolence, I’ve faced the reality that the world as we know it will not soon (if ever) be without violence. The attainable goal I seek is reduction of violence, and even that requires nuanced understanding of “self-defense,” “normal response” and “likely outcomes” as interpreted by a range of personalities with differing perspectives.
I am not in a position to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do when confronted with imminent threat or life-endangering oppression. I only know that even “justifiable violence” is a tactic that usually leads to escalation and often severely impacts noncombatants. I strongly recommend principled civil disobedience instead, and adopt Gandhi’s view that ends inevitably reflect the means used to get there: “Peace is the means not the goal.”
I thank you for raising the issues of what “we support” when we call ourselves progressive, and hope a lot more discussion ensues of “what we can and should do” to make our world a healthier, more just place.
Where Is Progressive Unity?
Recently, a thought really hit me hard though I have had an inkling of it several times before. Finally, I see why the social justice and progressive groups don’t get a lot done in the Fresno area. It is because we are not allies to each other as much as we should be.
In order to bring about real change we must work with each other. We must support each other and attend each other’s events. We don’t need to agree on every little thing, but we must be there for each other. We can disagree about religion, LGBT issues, abortion, the death penalty and more, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reach out and help each other when it comes to issues of racism, homelessness, education, school to prison pipeline, police abuse, economic inequality and all the other social injustices.
In the past, while doing social justice work I saw myself as weaving a spider web or trying to tie all the different communities together. As long as someone was working toward social justice, that was good enough for me and I tried to share what one group did with other groups and to get people to support each other. At times, it worked a little but I can see we have a lot more to do to bring about real social justice by working together and being each other’s allies.
When I attend events such as the Faith in Community’s We Stand with Ferguson event on Aug. 17 at Fresno City College, I want to see hundreds and hundreds of people from all kinds of different communities and groups, not dozens. I urge all of us to work together a lot more for the common good of all.
Vickie M. Fouts
Remembering Bud Gaston
A number of years ago, I wanted to visit my nephew as a student at the University of Chicago. I utilized the train system to get there, but unfortunately got off at the Garfield Station not knowing the area. While walking to the university, some Afro-American youth walking behind me stated, “I’d like to kill every White person.” It was a frightening experience for a sheltered citizen of east Fresno.
As a member of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., city committee, I worked with “Bud” Gaston and found him to be accepting of all races interested in justice for all. Also, working with the Black Political Council I found that his family members showed the same respect toward me.
Educator Gaston never once put me down as White, and he was always color blind. He would be most upset today by the controversy over the hiring of a White qualified teacher as an instructor at his new namesake school in West Fresno. Gaston was a fine educator and tolerant of all races. He was a great example of tolerance and one who believed accepting the best instructor for all children. Rev. King said it best that someday we would live in a society that was truly color blind.
Raymond F. Ensher
Co-Chair, Fresno County Democratic Women’s Club Diversity Committee
Guilty of War Crimes
Israel is guilty of war crimes for targeting civilians and the vital infrastructure that has caused thousands of Palestinian deaths. The current tragedy is just the latest in a long list of crimes, including the privation of water as a weapon of war. And the death toll continues to grow with each passing minute. The Israeli government, along with any group that strikes at civilian targets on either side, should be subject to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Supporters of Palestine and Israel should unite around a reconciliation process like what has taken place in South Africa and other countries torn apart by violence; with offending parties recognizing the humanity of their victims and the crimes they perpetrated on each other. Until then, we should put our energies into the movement to block, divest and sanction all economic structures that maintain the occupation of Palestine.