Turkish protester Erdem Gunduz has gained sudden fame for an act that is brilliant in its simplicity: he walked into Taksim Square and stood there. Over the past day, the man who has become known as “duran adam,” Turkish for “standing man,” has inspired other still, silent protests across Turkey.
The Associated Press calls it “passive defiance.” I call it active nonviolence. However one prefers to name it, it is a perfect illustration of the power of nonviolent resistance. As the AP reports, “After weeks of sometimes violent confrontation with police, protesters in Turkey have found what could be a more potent form of resistance: standing still.”
Gunduz’s act, amplified by social media, had a remarkably swift effect on the protests.
Erdogan appeared to be seizing the initiative after large weekend rallies in which he ordered Taksim Square to be cleared. The government has capitalized on sporadic scenes of violence amid the generally peaceful protest movement.
Gunduz’s act of non-violence could be harder to deal with, as it could pressure the government to arrest or disperse people who are doing nothing more than standing still.
This is exactly why nonviolence is powerful, in a way that violence can never be: it takes away any excuse to demonize, let alone retaliate. Not giving Prime Minister Erdogan anything to retaliate for may well be the surest way, in the words of Solomon and Saint Paul, to “heap burning coals upon his head.”
GIVEN THE EVENTS OF THE PAST FEW WEEKS in Boston, Oklahoma City and elsewhere in America, I thought I’d take a break from my critiques of our country to say a few words of unabashed praise.
About two and a half years ago, I was working at a job that I didn’t enjoy and was rather bad at. I did my best, but I learned that if you need someone to stay on top of the material needs of a busy office, I’m definitely not your guy.
My boss at the time was a great guy, and was almost heroically patient with me, but it was clear that the position was not for me. The only thing keeping me there was the very soft post-Great-Recession labor market and a sense of economic caution I probably got from my mother, who grew up in the last economic calamity to afflict the United States, the Great Depression.
As I settled into bed one night, I had a Moment of Clarity: I suddenly remembered that I had pretty decent savings, and that I’d always wanted to take an extended road trip. Suddenly, I knew what I needed to do.
The next day, I gave notice to my boss (he hid his relief pretty well). I spent the next two weeks in a frenzy of practical preparation — I got my car thoroughly serviced, paid a few months’ rent in advance and packed. On Oct. 8, 2010, I hit the road.
In the next few weeks, I hit more than 40 states and put almost 11,000 miles on my little car. As a result of my adventures I can say without exaggeration that we live in a rather stunning country.
I have seen some other parts of the world, but on this trip I got some sense of why the Chinese word for America means “The Beautiful Country.” Nowhere else have I encountered the scenic riches that America offers in astonishing variety and abundance.
Going through the Montana wilderness made me appreciate what made Woody Guthrie sing:
I’ve roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me
The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me
On my trip, I gained a new appreciation not just for the beauty of America’s land, but the brimming decency and generosity of her people. I met people along the way of almost every station and circumstance of life, and almost without exception the people of every region were kind, generous and happy to share their homes and lives with me.
The part of my trip I most looked forward to was the Deep South, to which I had never been.
My pre-visit image of the South was of a place that put a sort of courtly gloss on Faulknerian spiritual ruin. But while there is evidence all over the South of the sadder parts of their history, I found myself unexpectedly and utterly charmed.
I stayed for a few days with a friend in Greenville, South Carolina, and was struck by the far slower pace of life there – in a literal sense. People there talk slow, drive slow, and generally take their time with things. Buying something at the store is not just the brisk exchange of money and goods it usually is in places like New York and San Francisco, but also a chance to pause to catch up – there were pauses in the transaction where various parties asked about the well-being of various family members and so on. In the Bay Area, you’d have people behind them tapping their feet and rolling their eyes; there, though, this was just part of the expected ritual of courtesy and sociability.
I remember going to a barber shop in Savannah, Georgia, to get my hair cut (I recalled how “Easy Rider” ended, and was taking no chances). It was a Saturday morning, and I sat among men in white, short-sleeved dress shirts talking about the things men talk about when they are out of earshot of their wives — hunting, baseball, politics and so on. There was a certain refined courtesy and gentility — an almost reflexive charm — these men had with one another that seems to be distinctive to the South.
On my way through Atlanta, I stopped at the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, and my visit felt like the culmination of a pilgrimage. I have admired Dr. King since high school, and seeing the nearby church where he preached was overwhelming.
The words of one of his speeches came to me, and for a brief moment I caught a glimpse of the great promise of America, and a path to reach it. Despite the real and deep divisions that beset us, we can, in fact, be reconciled with one another, if we but will it. My trip through America gave me a new appreciation of the depth of his words:
Love is a weapon that cuts without wounding, and ennobles the one who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
And I believe that it is this kind of love that can take us through this period of transition and we can come to that brighter day. This is what we’ve tried to do. In the midst of our struggle we haven’t always succeeded, but somehow in some of the dark moments we have been able to stand up before our violent oppressors and say:
We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. And so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Burn our homes and threaten our children and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Yes, send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hours and drag us out on some wayside road and beat us and leave us half dead, and as difficult as it is, we will still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves, we will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.
“I was graduated from the finest school, which is that of the love between a parent and a child. Though the world is constructed to serve glory, success, and strength, one loves one’s parents and one’s children despite their failings and weaknesses—sometimes even more on account of them. In this school you learn the measure not of power, but of love; not of victory, but of grace, not of triumph, but of forgiveness. You learn as well, and sometimes, as I did, you learn early, that love can overcome death, and that what is required of you in this is memory and devotion. Memory and devotion. To keep your love alive you must be willing to be obstinate, and irrational, and true, to fashion your entire life as a construct, a metaphor, a fiction, a device for the exercise of faith. Without this, you will live like a beast with nothing but an aching heart. With it, your heart, though broken, will be full, and you will stay in the fight until the very last.”
- From Memoir from Antproof Case by Mark Helprin
By now I am sure that most readers of this blog have heard the story: a Catholic school teacher in San Diego was fired from her position because she was the victim of domestic violence: despite a restraining order, her husband showed up at the school, and the school is concerned about the safety of the other students. (Her four children are also students at the school.) A detailed news report about the story is here. Two very thoughtful posts from other blogs about this story are here and here.
I don’t really have much to add to this except to record my own sense of horror and shame: how could a CATHOLIC school, and a CATHOLIC diocese do this? Is there some aspect of the story I am missing or not understanding? How can they possibly justify doing this?
I posted some of these links on my FaceBook page, and one of my FB friends cryptically responded with a variation of “The only thing required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Well, I don’t want evil to triumph, but honestly I have no idea what to do. Pray, of course, but I want to act in a more temporal fashion. I suppose I could write to the Bishop, Robert Brom, but I have limited faith in the power of such letters.
What are your thoughts on this affair? What can or should be done?
UPDATE (6/18/2013): It is being reported in the media that she is being offered a job at an unidentified private school in the Los Angeles letter. It is also being reported that parents at Holy Trinity had a demonstration in support of her firing. More can be found here.
Resolved: except in unusual circumstances, a bishop should remain wedded to his See and not be promoted from diocese to (more important) diocese. One exception would be to allow a bishop to be appointed archbishop and metropolitan of the archdiocese his diocese is associated with.
Sandro Magister in his blog wrote that Pope Francis has been preaching against ecclesiastical careerism, which is most notably manifested in bishops being transferred between dioceses. He notes that this practice was banned in the early Church, and only became common during the middle ages. He quotes Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, who railed against this practice in a 1999 interview: Read more…
IN PART ONE, I TALKED ABOUT what I called the Creeping Abstraction of Accountability — the tendency since the Industrial Revolution for accountability in our economic relations to become ever more abstracted from anything resembling personal responsibility. I used as my examples an imaginary (but also reasonably typical) village named “Sylvan” in the year 1800, versus a typical American community in the present day.
In Sylvan, it would be an absurdity to write to a company 2,000 miles away if you had a problem with a chair, since the person who made it would probably be personally known to you, and you would likely be no more than a few minutes’ walk from the location of its manufacture. If you wanted, you could easily arrange to watch it being made, along with practically everything else you owned — milk, butter, the shoes for your horse, the shoes you wore, and so on.
It is probably still possible to live your life that way — eating only agricultural products from local farmers, using only locally made furniture, clothing and shoes, and so forth — but it is nowhere near the typical experience. The very structure of our civilization would have been nearly unimaginable to the residents of Sylvan, and probably somewhat terrifying if they did imagine it.
The desk and the keyboard on which I’m typing this was made in China by people I’ll never meet, as was the cup holding the cocoa I’m sipping. The car I drive was made somewhere in the U.S.; my shirt in Indonesia; my jeans in the U.S. (again, I have no idea where, exactly). There is virtually no possibility of my ever meeting the people who made most of the stuff I use every day.
To be sure, there are many advantages to living in the present industrial world. I like being able to take BART to work. Altogether, getting to work and getting around in general is much easier and more pleasant an experience than it used to be — in 1800, America’s larger cities reeked of horse dung, and the bloated, putrefying remains of worked-to-death draft animals used to be a common sight in the streets of places like New York and Philadelphia.
I really, really would not want to give up modern dentistry. I like being able to eat a more-or-less fresh orange in New York City in, say, February.
But the price of the material abundance made possible by the Industrial Revolution is that we are deeply, structurally alienated from one another in our economic (and, for that matter, basic human) relations.
When I read some of the arguments put forth by spokesmen for the contemporary political right, it seems that the remedies they propose are more suited for the problems of the world inhabited by my Sylvanians in 1800 than to the challenges of the scale and complexity of American civilization in 2013. A large, powerful national government in 1800 would have been an intrusive absurdity – there was no need for it. To the extent that economic regulation was needed, it could easily be handled at the local level and relatively informally, since that was the scale of virtually any problems that arose.
New Deal-type liberals like myself think there is a critical role to be played by a large, powerful central government in the present United States — not because we think governments ought, always and everywhere, to be big, but because Big Government is the only potential counter-balance to the power of Big Business. And big business, in the present world, has enormous power and influence. ExxonMobil made more in after-tax profits last year than many U.S. state governments took in in total revenue.
Now, some readers might be surprised to hear me say this, but I don’t think there is anything innately wrong with business in general, nor even with big business, per se. My father retired from Chevron after 33 years, and worked with many fine people, including people who became old family friends. I worked for a major imaging company for several years and have fond memories of my co-workers and supervisors from my time there.
The benefits of industrialization — primarily a great variety and abundance of stuff — are great, too. But the costs need to be addressed.
For all the complaints about how environmental regulations cost U.S. companies efficiency, I appreciate the fact that as a result of their existence I can be reasonably certain that wherever I go in the United States, I will not be poisoned by toxic waste as I go about my day. I also like the fact that my food has been inspected, and that the facilities in which it is produced are subject to all kinds of regulations regarding sanitation and the humane treatment of animals.
I like the fact that gold mining companies can no longer blithely contaminate rivers, bays and ultimately the ocean with mercury like they used to. I like the fact that our coal mines kill fewer workers in a year than were killed in them each month before safety regulations were imposed. I like the fact that, thanks to child labor laws, 9-year-olds no longer have their arms torn off working in mills. I like the fact that unions can no longer be crushed by company-hired thugs for the simple act of banding together and asking for fair treatment and wages.
The world of Sylvan was in many ways better than the world in which we live out our lives today — but that pastoral, courtly world is well and truly gone. New citizens, and new circumstances, require new laws.
Directive 36 of the Ethical and Religious Directives states that a victim of sexual violence may “defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault [… and ...] may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization.” I have sought — here — to expand upon emergency contraception in the context of self-defense and, in this post, I intend to reflect upon the abortifacient potential of such measures and how that potential impacts moral assessment.
Those operating within the Catholic moral tradition accept that a victim of sexual violence, in seeking to prevent pregnancy following assault, acts in self-defense. However, in the administering of an emergency contraceptive measure, possibility exists that a second victim may be affected.
When one who has been victimized by sexual violence is tested for pregnancy (within appropriate proximity to the assault experienced), and when the result of that test is positive, the pregnancy cannot owe existence to the sexual assault experienced. The administering of an emergency contraceptive measure then becomes unnecessary and the particular concern of she who had feared forcible impregnation is alleviated.