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May 24, 2009


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i so totally agree with you, zoe. i've had this debate with friends and strangers so many times. when i read your post, the first thing that came to mind was the debate between wiley college and harvard from the movie, the great debaters (i believe in real life they debated a college in California). it's a different minority . . . a different oppression . . . but in name only. only the oppressed, the "right" or lack to it, oppressers and the names of those who sit silently by change.

thanks for your courage and all the work you've done and do to bring equal rights to all.

James Farmer, Jr: Resolved: Civil disobedience is a moral weapon in the fight for justice. But how can disobedience ever be moral? Well I guess that depends on one's definition of the words -- word. In 1919, in India, ten thousand people gathered in Amritsar to protest the tyranny of British rule. General Reginald Dyer trapped them in a courtyard and ordered his troops to fire into the crowd for ten minutes. Three hundred seventy-nine died -- men, women, children, shot down in cold blood. Dyer said he had taught them "a moral lesson." Gandhi and his followers responded not with violence, but with an organized campaign of noncooperation. Government buildings were occupied. Streets were blocked with people who refused to rise, even when beaten by police. Gandhi was arrested. But the British were soon forced to release him. He called it a "moral victory." The definition of moral: Dyer's "lesson" or Gandhi's victory. You choose.

Gandhi believes one must always act with love and respect for one's opponents -- even if they are Harvard debaters. Gandhi also believes that law breakers must accept the legal consequences for their actions. Does that sound like anarchy? Civil disobedience is not something for us to fear. It is, after all, an American concept. You see, Gandhi draws his inspiration not from a Hindu scripture, but from Henry David Thoreau, who, I believe, graduated from Harvard and lived by a pond not too far from here.

Majorities do not decide what is right or wrong. Your conscience does. So why should a citizen surrender his or her conscience to a legislature? For we must never, ever kneel down before the tyranny of a majority.

In Texas, they lynch negroes. My teammates and I saw a man strung up by his neck -- and set on fire. We drove through a lynch mob, pressed our faces against the floorboard. I looked at my teammates. I saw the fear in their eyes; and worse -- the shame. What was this negro's crime that he should be hung, without trial, in a dark forest filled with fog? Was he a thief? Was he a killer? Or just a negro? Was he a sharecropper? A preacher? Were his children waiting up for him? And who were we to just lie there and do nothing? No matter what he did, the mob was the criminal. But the law did nothing -- just left us wondering why. My opponent says, "Nothing that erodes the rule of law can be moral." But there is no rule of law in the Jim Crow South, not when negroes are denied housing, turned away from schools, hospitals -- and not when we are lynched.

Saint Augustine said, "An unjust law is no law at all," which means I have a right, even a duty, to resist -- with violence or civil disobedience. You should pray I choose the latter.

Sahar Andrade

Hey Zoe:
What a great article/ blog. I would take the moral lesson given by Ghandi anytime over the one from Henry David Thoreau though I totally understand that some may see civil disobedience as a way to have their voice heard. I believe that anger generates anger and violence gives birth to more violence.
Ghandi has always been my idol, his fight, his philosophy, his actions and his victory even if he didn't live long enough to see it.
Love conquers at the end no matter how long it takes it is the right thing to do if peace is achieved by anger it will always be volatile. The best revolutions are the ones that had no blood shed or violence involved there are many examples in history.
I support LGBT rights though I am straight but I believe we are all entitled to what we believe/ practice, isn't that the beauty of this country isn't that why a lot of people work hard and fight to be here and to be heard, and most important to be free.
People that are in the closet and acting against those out of closet are hypocrites, pure and simple.
If they don't want to get out of the closet we respect that and now it is their turn to respect others life styles/ opinions/ rights.
Love, Love and love.
Remember what Ghandi said: Change in yourself what you wnat see changed in others


Sharon -- The Debaters is a true story -- about the debaters in Wiley college in Texas. James Farmer was about 14 or 15 years old at the time of the Harvard debate. Later in his life, he moved here to Fredericksburg, VA where he was a professor at University of Mary Washington. UMW honors his legacy with the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

Zoe -- Great blog. Love does outlast anger. I can also understand Larry Kramer's anger -- it was really anguish. His beloved friends were dying and the government was refusing to recognize it or deal with it because AIDS was isolated to the gay community at the time.

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