What is Peacefulness? Let's Get Clear About It.
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Our adoption case is still pending with the Indian Authority, and once again, Seattle faces controversy as the city council prepares to vote on de-funding the police by 50%, and the counter-protesting mounts. At this point, Seattle is a sad remnant of what it used to be. Fewer people are walking in the neighborhoods because of the signs and tension, and many are planning to move out of the city.
One of my deep concerns is that the youth involved in this movement are being led to believe in a new and eerie definition of peace. Peace includes the right to spray business doors with graffiti without cleaning up later, to take over a neighborhood street where people live and work, to gather in crowds during a pandemic, and to carry weapons.
It has involved intimidating elected officials, including our police chief, an African American woman who has spoken out in support of the movement's original message and against the violence. At least 24 people have died nationwide since the protests began, including an 8 year old child, and this grim statistic is not easy to find. In fact, I could not find a recent toll on Google, but only on the Yandex search engine.
Let’s remember that the “cause no harm” principle of peace is incredibly strong. Millions of people worldwide realized that the detractors of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi were in the wrong precisely because these men behaved peacefully. When seen in stark contrast to peace, wrongful actions are clear.
There is still time to give peace a chance, though in Seattle, that time is running low.
Peace is …
the choice to cause no harm
loving your enemies
listening to those who do not agree with you
choosing long conversations and compromise
being sympathetic to people as a whole
being patient, a slow, sustainable choice
stronger than any weapon
When peaceful people protest, they…
cause no harm
change people’s minds through a steady show of love
do not carry weapons because love is stronger than weaponry
respect peoples’ right to sleep well at night
respect people’s homes and businesses
create change with innovative ideas that make people smile and think
create long-lasting change through their love, respectability and endurance
I am sure that the BLM movement is different in many places. If you are supporting the BLM movement in your area or if you know people who are, I encourage you to use the list above as a way to decide whether or not your town’s movement is pursuing peace.
The BLM Movement in Seattle
The news that people see is different in every area, and so I want to list a few of the ways that the Seattle movement has acted in opposition to peace. I will also offer some suggestions on how this movement can regain peace. I do not know if we will be able to adopt kids from India, but if the program remains open, I hope this city will be a peaceful place when they arrive.
Protesting at night—this causes harm by forcing local residents to lose sleep at a time when maintaining health is so important.
Protests that put the protesters in immediate danger—even if the protesters themselves wish to become martyrs, this causes harm to many, especially the parents of those who lose their kids. Clearly the continuance of CHOP after the first shooting and the choice to protest on the interstate at night put the protesters in danger.
Causing business loss—people have often protested at the expense of businesses for a week but doing this on an ongoing basis directly causes harm to many business owners and can lead to lost jobs for employees. It is especially cruel after the three months of quarantine that we all suffered.
Protesting for long periods in places where people live—all of us need a refuge, a place to call home. During a time that is already stressful given the risk of the virus and the economic fallout, it is harmful to disrupt the peace of people when they are at home.
Protesting while carrying weapons, whether loaded or not—it is a terrible shame that this generation has become so detached from truly peaceful methods of protesting.
Marching and gathering without social distancing—this disrespects those who are at risk during the pandemic, and it is not necessary. With creative thinking, the options are endless.
How the Seattle BLM Movement can Regain Peace
Give up protesting at night. If the cause is true, there is no need to hide it from the light of day.
Protesters should value their own lives and the lives of their friends. If they see that these lives are obviously at risk, they must remember that they have lost the way of peace. Use artistry and innovation to find ways to protest peacefully and safely.
Put down the weapons and refuse to continue protesting with those who carry them. This serves two purposes: it puts you on the side of peace, and it separates you from the criminals that are bringing disrepute to the movement. Why not give peace a chance?
Be creative and focus on winning people over to your cause. How do young people feel when their parents criticize them all day? Well, the movement is repeatedly telling society about everything it has done wrong and how terrible it has been. Why not switch tactics, like a wise parent? If you are truly about peace, use the strengths of our culture to help people think differently.
Take breaks for inspiration. The BLM movement is already famous and has a great deal of support from the media. If the Seattle movement took 2 or 4 weeks off to regroup, the citizens of Seattle would feel glad for the break from shocking news. And the movement’s members could figure out wise ways to separate those who are peaceful from those who are not. They could also brainstorm artistic approaches to protesting with social distancing.
Choose a no harm, full-on peaceful approach. Check everything you do on the fundamental question: is this causing harm to an innocent bystander, to my protester friend or to myself? If the answer is yes, trust that there is a better way. Take time to wait for inspiration and choose that peaceful way.
At the end of the day, be fair. Try to change people’s minds, but if you do not succeed, do not push governments to pass laws that the majority do not want. That is not democracy. If you are determined to change people’s minds, put the work into continuing that cause. Governments will pass laws when the majority agrees, and in that case, democracy succeeds. If you are unsure of what the citizens of your city want, demand a democratic and viable option, a referendum.
Remember that the more peaceful you are, the more you will show up your detractors as people who are in the wrong. Unfortunately, as long as you are in the wrong with your own actions, you are achieving nothing substantial. Laws that are passed now can be reversed. How did Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela create lasting change? Their actions and their words matched. They chose peace.
Since the beginning of this movement, I have struggled with conflicted feelings about it, especially because I have been a Democrat all my life and a social worker. While drafting this blog, I finally understood the core issue. In fact, when I was first creating lists to define peace, I did not think of “cause no harm” immediately. I believe that is just one more example of how confused we are all becoming in relation to peace.
We need to be vigilant because this movement is not only changing the way people think about race, it’s changing the way we perceive peace, a disturbing and unacceptable trade off. We are hearing “peaceful protest” over and over associated with actions which are clearly not peaceful, and we are being pushed to empathize with the movement anyway.
Would this movement fail if it were nonviolent? Would it fail if protesters took two weeks off to consider what has happened, mourn those who have died, and regroup? If the answer to either question is yes, the underlying motives behind this movement are proved questionable. If not, there is a chance for enlightened change.
Those of us who believe in international adoption are willing to choose a long, difficult and yet beautiful and enduring way to better society. This way may be at risk if our country remains caught in a stranglehold between a virus and virulent protests. If international adoption programs are closed thousands of kids will lose the chance to gain forever homes.
We need to stand strong and hold this movement accountable to the standards of peace. I encourage you to reject the message of any protest that is not peaceful and to remind people that the nonviolent way is the only way of truth.
Do you believe black lives matter? If you do, cause no harm.
Erica Rosi Tham
By the way, I created my own Peace sign here. I encourage anyone who wants to post a sign or counter-protest to choose peace, specifically opposition to night-time protesting, damage of any kind and the carrying of weapons. While "support the police" is a necessary statement while de-funding is on the table, it is polarizing. I do support the police in Seattle because I believe they have shown super-human restraint while being constantly provoked. It is not fair to poke someone all day every day and then complain that the person slapped you. However, the wise approach is to meet this movement at a viable halfway point which could shift peoples' mindsets away from violence. Peace is what is most important right now--for all of us, especially the young people who are protesting because most of them are just college students who are way too close to a dangerous fire.