On Jan. 1, I began a 30-day fast to encourage our nation and leaders to embrace the values and commitment to nonviolence exemplified by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I propose a National Day of Prayer and Reflection on individual and collective responsibility for violence; the appointment of a National Advisory Commission on the Causes of Violence in America; incorporating nonviolence education into elementary and secondary school curricula; a study on the history and causes of violence; and a commitment by faith communities to teach forgiveness and unconditional love.
For the past 12 months, I have been immersed in Dr. King’s sermons, speeches, interviews and press statements as part of the Civil Rights Scholars Team for the JPMorgan Chase/The King Center project. This experience has convinced me that a great spiritual revolution, accompanied by practicing nonviolent principles in every aspect of life, at every level, is necessary to prevent this country from spiraling down the path to self-destruction. This mandate is necessary for urban centers, rural areas, state governments, the halls of Congress and the international community.
The core of Dr. King’s revolution of values is developing an all-embracing, unconditional love and understanding for people of every race, religion, economic class, age, political persuasion and nation. King spoke of the need for our loyalties to be ecumenical and of developing “an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole.” We must shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society in order to successfully conquer racism, poverty, materialism, war and other forms of violence. This revolution of values is an expression of the love ethic of Jesus and all major religions.
We must learn nonviolent communication, conflict resolution and mediation skills, and how to use nonviolent methods of social change that lead to reconciliation. We must give our children an understanding of how to build and maintain the human relationships that are essential to individual mental health and the well-being of our communities. By the time young people graduate from high school, they should be proficient in nonviolent communication and social skills that promote connection rather than separateness.
We must work to address the massive fear that grips this nation. Our words are angry and hateful, our deeds often vengeful. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, fear has overtaken our country. Fear was engendered when the strongest military in the world could not stop attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Fear was exacerbated by the Wall Street collapse that stripped millions of people of investments and savings and by the “recession” that deprived millions of jobs. Crippling fear has come from the housing crisis, with mortgage foreclosures and loss of property values, and from skyrocketing health care costs. Fear has been further exacerbated by the threat of climate change — oceans rising, drought, severe storms and raging wildfires that threaten our fragile ecosystem. Our sense of security, a fundamental human need, has been shattered.