When it was learned that members of the Nazi Party planned a rally and march in Olympia, the peace and justice community flew into action. Notices were sent out left and right in an attempt to get this information out before the most people possible.
The number one question on most people's minds was: Should we respond and, if so, how?
From what I gleaned on the Olympia Movement for Peace & Justice (OMPJ) email list, there was a wide divergence of opinion on this question. One such opinion was that we should simply ignore the Nazis, that confronting them would only provide them with more publicity and legitimize their presence. An offshoot of this position suggested that a counter rally be held at a completely different location simultaneous to the Nazi rally.
Another stated position was that ignoring them would embolden them. The people holding this perspective contended that we should hold a counter rally in the immediate vicinity of the Nazi rally with the goals of drowning out the Nazi message. An offshoot of this position -- one I personally advocated -- was to hold the counter rally in close proxity but to refrain from trying to drown out the Nazi rally due to the belief that, under the 1st Amendment, the Nazis have as much right to voice their opinions as we do.
As reported in The Olympian
, the counter rally took place in close proximity to the Nazi version and both sides exchanged insults and jeers. In the end, the overwhelming numbers of the counter rally caused the small Nazi contingent to cut short their rally and leave.
I know my position vis-a-vis this specific event and overall topic is not the popular one, but I believe that willfully choosing to exchange insults and jeers with the Nazis (or any group we may oppose) undercuts our ability to maintain the moral/ethical high ground and, in essence, violates the concept of peace and/or nonviolence.
I draw my inspiration for the strength and clarity of nonviolence from my Taoist beliefs, Jesus of Nazareth, Dorothy Day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. Though expressed using different symbolism and different languages, I sincerely believe that all of these great moral leaders (and many more) would agree to the central tenet, Love Your Enemies.
We recently celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King's philosophy of nonviolence was built upon the life and beliefs of Gandhi. As I'm sure the Nazis will return to Olympia one day soon and other hate-based organizations will also make their presence known in our local communities, I strongly believe that area peace and social justice activists need to reexamine our motivations to insure that our actions in the defense of justice do not concurrently contradict our beliefs in peace and nonviolence.
In this vein, I share with you some poignant words from Gandhi.
"When we claim to be nonviolent, we are expected not to be angry with those who have injured us. We will not wish them harm; we will wish them well; we will not swear at them; we will not cause them any physical hurt. We will put up with all the injury to which we are subjected by the wrongdoers. Thus nonviolence is complete innocence. Complete nonviolence is complete absence of ill will against all that lives... Nonviolence is therefore, in its active form, goodwill toward all life. It is pure Love."
I realize this is a high ideal, one that is most assuredly beyond our grasp. Yet, the purpose of an ideal is to be a guiding light to move toward. My sincere hope is that there are others in our community who would like to try to walk this path with me.