Love and forgive when people hate and lie
Editor's Note: This is Part II of a series of opinion pieces about political violence.
Last week I commented on the rise in political violence, particularly in view of a similar rise seen in the 1960s and '70s. I believe the commitment of some people to violent action must be matched with a corresponding dedication to nonviolent action. To that end, I would urge the following:
Separate yourself from all violence. Don't lend your name, presence or support to any group or effort hoping to provoke or commit violent action. Out of anger or frustration, some are considering whether some sort of violence is needed to retaliate or intimidate. The temptation is real. After all, sometimes it works. While I'm convinced non-violence prevails in the long run, still violence wins some battles in the short run.
For example, this spring the Oregon Republican Party was threatened with violence if it participated in the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade (as it had planned to do). Parade organizers, too, received an anonymous email threatening violence if the parade allowed Trump supporters to march.
In a decision so cowardly it's embarrassing, the organizers cancelled the parade in response to the threat.
When a group of Trump supporters staged their own permitted march on Southeast 82nd the day of the cancelled parade, masked counter-protesters tried to block and silence them, even after police ordered them to the other side of the street. While they were unable stop or silence the Trump supporters, the masked rioters did manage to break up an otherwise peaceful march of liberal groups downtown a few days later. In other words, so-called anti-fascists stopped a parade on account of some mainstream conservatives, ruined a march for some mainstream liberals, and thwarted how many fascists? Zero.
Don't fall for the Revolution in the Streets fantasy. Our Constitution obviates revolutions.
Stand up for everyone's rights. Remember why our Constitution is great. It lets you march on one side of the street, in peace, with police protection, while your sworn enemies are marching on the other side of the street, in peace, with police protection. Let them march, let them bark at the moon, let them speak on your campus; let them burn you in effigy; let them call names and froth at the mouth. Let them have all the freedom you want for yourself. For 241 years we have fought and bled and died for that — not just for ourselves, but for our political opponents as well.
And last, I will suggest something even more radical: Forgive your enemies. When your opponents go too far in their free and protected speech — when they hate, lie and defame — love and forgive them. It will make you free and it will make peace.
That is one of the things I celebrate on the third Monday of January every year. You can call it naive or weak, but in the end Rev. King won the day, and Jim Crow did not. As King said, "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."
I don't advocate this primarily because it's nice or easy. No, forgiveness can be very hard. But it's the only thing that breaks the cycle of violence.
I'll admit, I expect the next four years to be some pretty rough sailing, because of the widening chasm between political sides, because of anger, and because too many out there on the streets not only hold violence as an option, but have (or will) embraced it. Sadly, they have greater confidence in force and fear than in freedom and forgiveness. May we choose the better way.
Steve Dehner is a Forest Grove resident, a writer, and a library aide at the Cornelius Public Library.