Mahātmā Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Born: October 2, 1869
Assassinated: January 30, 1948
Martin Luther King Jr.
Born: January 15, 1929
Assassinated: April 4, 1968
by Rick Bretz
Throughout history, public figures or groups use violence to replace diplomacy and negotiation to achieve righteous. Whether it is to silence people who disagree with your view or achieve power through the physical taking of land, or other means of wealth that translate into control and authority, it usually results in innocent lives being destroyed or disrupted. Today is a good day to look at two individuals who went a different route.
Today is Martin Luther King’s Birthday Memorial Holiday. He tused many strategies in fighting for civil rights including borrowing some of Gandhi’s beliefs in his effort to gain independence from colonial rule. They both were assassinated and were also effective speakers and leaders.
The movie Gandhi is one of my favorite autobiographical cinematic experiences due to Ben Kingsley’s perfect pitch portrayal of the man. What I find most interesting about the movie is how Kingsley embodies Gandhi’s non-violent protest ideology. Two particular scenes strike me as brilliant in showing this. The part where Gandhi sit in front of large mass of fellow Indians and tells then how exactly they will fight the English government. The other scene is Gandhi’s Salt March in protest to salt taxes and prohibition of making salt. It’s a simple protest but highly effective. Gandhi’s effectiveness can be partly attributed to media and the world wide press publicizing his actions, protests, prison sentences and ultimately his successes.
- (in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain tradition) the principle of nonviolence toward all living things
Ahimsa also has a more spiritual meaning than the physical refraining of no violence. The word also refers to transcendental philosophy of not bringing into your thoughts or mind any violent thought to anything in nature, man, woman, animals or any living being. It’s on a deeper level than physical.
In the movie, he is sitting almost in a prone position on a stage inside a valley surrounded on all sides by British soldiers. Following the ideals of Ahimsa or non-violence, Gandhi called on his fellow Indians to resist colonial rule by “Quitting India”, avoid paying taxes, do no patron government offices, do not buy goods brought here from Britain but all the while showing respect for soldiers and the police force. The act of not hitting back when you are being arrested or beaten enabled the movement to get positive press. The Quit India speech as it is known today called for passive resistance in order to obtain certain goals,
Gandhi and his political partners earned their independence from colonial rule. This success led to other issues with different religions and the fighting that resulted in the deaths of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims across the country. A resentful Hindu extremist took Gandhi’s life. The internal strife eventually resulted in the formation of Pakistan and India who both now have nuclear capability.
The Civil Rights Leader
Treating people as you would like to be treated with respect and dignity would seem to be innate in all of us. However, people have a lottery aspect to their lives–new born babies can’t choose their parents. The nature versus nurture brings to each of us the history and prejudices of the family and the geographic culture. Martin Luther King Jr was trying to change that or least make his audience think twice. When he spoke on television, radio or on grand stages in person, he wasn’t just talking to his core audience, he wanted to reach his shadow listeners to make them think twice about the future and kind of America and Earth we should all inhabit.
Martin Luther King Jr was a magnificent speaker. This ability to motivate his followers and galvanize people to march, ride buses and stop at walk in to segregated bus stops, sit in, eat at a segregated restaurant, be subjected to prison sentences while not fighting back will always be remembered. His words during some of his famous speeches are for all time. The “I Have a Dream Speech” entered our history on August 28, 1963 and has many famous lines in it as his voice thundered across the Washington, DC Mall.
Quotes from “I Have a Dream Speech”
“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”
“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
Featuring these two significant people in history during times when people want to bomb, kill, maim and destroy because people disagree with their views is all the more important. All sides can agree or disagree but there is one idea we should all agree on–treat people with dignity and respect and as Martin Luther King Jr said judge people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.