With all of the violence, riots and civil unrest that currently threatens our land, it is important to remember the social justice victories that great Georgians like U.S. Congressman John Lewis, U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were able to win by carefully practicing non-violent resistance.
America, of course, began in a revolution. And, because it ended with such success, many people seem to believe that most revolutions yield positive results.
Sadly, most revolutions end in wanton disaster. The French Revolution, for example, which started just six years after our own ended, garnered 100 times more deaths – 10 million people – in a horrific period of carnage and wars that we still call “The Terror.” The Russian Revolution wiped out 60 million of its own people, the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” sacrificed 80 million people, and the Communist revolution in Cambodia resulted in a genocide that murdered nearly one fourth of their entire population.
Violence rarely works. You cannot conquer hate with hate. While our own revolution thankfully ended in a Constitutional Republic, the French ended up with an emperor named Napoleon, and communist revolutions always produce totalitarian regimes.
History has shown us, time and time again, that peaceful protest is far more successful than violence. “We didn’t kill anybody,” said Ambassador Young. “We didn’t destroy any property. We made sure that non-violence was the way that we could help America grow in grace and in the purity of its own vision.”
We rightfully celebrate those brave Georgians who brought forward the American civil rights movement. But, most of us do not know that there have been more than 50 other successful civil rights movements over the past 70 years with leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Lech Walesa and Nelson Mandela, who also made the human race a better species through peaceful protests.
However, activists who resort to violence, such as the fascists and communists, have historically led to slaughter, poverty, totalitarianism and despair.
In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King said, “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
Civility and tolerance must be learned. It does not pass from one generation to another through our DNA. We must teach our young people to value every human life, and that we cannot have a functioning society unless everyone demonstrates respect for each other.
Every American ought to understand the principals of Dr. King’s vision: that we should seek to defeat injustice and not people, choose love instead of hate and friendship over strife. Thus, I believe that the state of Georgia should offer curriculum that teaches non-violent resistance to our middle and high schools. We should never force any school to teach any particular curriculum, but I do believe that we, as Georgians, should know and understand what these great Georgians accomplished and how they accomplished it.
Perhaps, more importantly, all of us should be reminded that healing and reconciliation begins with friendship and understanding.
Violence, on the other hand, only begets violence.
Representative Dave Belton represents the citizens of District 112, which includes Morgan County and the eastern side of Newton County.