Saturday, February 2, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, February 2, 2019 - Stand Up for Sitting Down

It seems nearly every social group has a way of marginalizing each other. People are made to feel as if they don’t have a right to exist, much less belong. There is so much fear of one another in the world. We are forever glancing over our shoulders.
Yet we must acknowledge we have been manipulated to feel this way. It is not natural to us. It is natural to recognize difference, of course, but not fear it. The system of all life is designed to flourish in the presence of diversity. Just ask a gene pool.
Some are told where to stand on an issue, some are told where to sit on the bus. We are all told whom to fear, and why. There is no group immune to this experience. The elite, too, fall victim to their own propaganda even when they know they wrote the narrative themselves. To them, the lie becomes more real each time it is told.
The trick to standing up to this oppression is to recognize it for what it is. And then calmly not stand for it.
A peaceful protest is not fought on its feet. It sits. It remains steadfast and calm. Strategic. It does not recognize the authority which tries to bait it into a standing fight. It calmly walks across the bridge it has been told is forbidden. It does not engage the beast. That makes it only stronger.
There is an important lesson in this. Look to history for yourself. Note the success of human rights champions when they choose to sit down as a way of fighting back. When they have decided not to stand for it anymore, the truest leaders sit.
Spiritual practices agree with this method of deliberate transformation. When we spend all of our energy pushing against something, we fall over the minute it stops pushing back. Stop pushing. Sit down. Seek a state of calm resplendence. Behave as if they know that you know that they know you are in the right. They will fall over from the sudden withdrawal of your resistance.
Black American civil rights icon Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. She was not the first person of color to resist segregation in this way, but her arrest struck a chord and launched a bus boycott which lasted for over a year. Almost immediately she became an international icon of civil rights.
Behind this moment stood a particular history with buses for Rosa. As a child she was forced to walk to school because the buses were only for white children. Black children had to walk. She said that seeing the bus go by everyday was one of the things which first brought her to realize there were two different worlds, one white, one black. It is perhaps no surprise her stand would eventually be taken while sitting on a bus.
She did not fight. She did not commence battle. She simply refused to stand for it anymore and behaved as though it was her right to sit exactly where she was. Gandhi fought imperialism in India by simply making salt. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. chose to walk across a bridge rather than burn it, even when those he most respected told him he was mad.
The face of nonresistance is not a passive one. It is defiant, but calm. Afraid, of course, but fear is not in charge. Nonresistance is resolute and principled in its determination to manifest real and lasting transformation in the world. It sees what is real and moves to align its surroundings with that truth. It does not need to do battle because it has already won.
Remember this when it comes time to choose between fighting fire with fire or remaining calm and focused on the goal. A ideological foe has few weapons effective against a calm and determined opponent. They need your rage to function. Deny them the fuel of your anger. If you are truly in the right, the truth will be revealed with time and tenacity. If you are wrong, remaining calm will help you discover it sooner. It happens to us all. Don’t be afraid to learn you’ve been wrong. It’s the only thing which has ever nudged humanity forward. Truth is freedom for all of us.
If we maintain the grace to allow our opponents their dignity, the reconciliation process runs more smoothly. Give them no ammunition to keep fighting you back. This is as true for civil rights as everything else. Even a frightened animal will more likely come to you if you calmly sit on the ground and patiently wait for them to realize you’re not as scary as they were once very carefully taught.

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