Conflict is inevitable. War is not.

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Book discussion

Posted on: July 10th, 2014 by Dorothy Sampson No Comments

Eugene has a Beyond War Book Group that meets monthly to evaluate books and create discussion questions to include in a Beyond War Reader’s Guide in order to help other Book Discussion Groups.

The Nonviolence Handbook, A Guide for Practical Action by Michael Nagler

Like a fish living in water and unaware of it, we are unmindful of the worldview we operate in. A consequence of the scientific revolution that began in the eighteenth century is a system of thinking that emphasizes materialism, separateness and competition. Violence is seen as the norm. This interpretation of the world is so prevailing that we are largely ignorant that it is a construct. Recently science has undergone a shift that supports Gandhi’s view that all life is connected and “nonviolence is the real law of our species.”

While we work to overcome the cultural lag in this understanding, Nagler’s book provides a primer on nonviolence. As the title states it is “a guide for practical action,” and more, because Nagler argues that nonviolence is not a tactic, rather it is a living power. There are many examples of nonviolence in practice from Gandhi to Martin Luther King to Mandela to Tim DeJesus, recently released from prison for his nonviolent activism to protect the environment

Disputes, whether in personal relations or over issues we hold dear – economic and social justice, protecting the environment, striving for a world beyond war – are not a zero-sum game. It is not a matter of “for me to win, you have to lose.” As long as we try never to humiliate or accept humiliation, we can shift the ground to problem solving, where everyone’s needs are met.

Nagler’s discussion is infused with optimism. He writes that a nonviolent act will always have a useful effect. Even when it appears to have failed “it operates under the surface and sets in motion forces which ultimately lead to a new equation.”

To express nonviolence, Gandhi coined the term “satyagraha” based on Sanscrit and meaning “clinging to truth.” “The world rests on the bedrock of satya or truth. Asatya, meaning untruth, also means nonexistent, and satya or truth also means that which is. If untruth does not so much as exist, its victory is out of the question. And truth being that which is, can never be destroyed.”

What a joyous thought! The words of Enya’s song come to mind, “What tho’ the tempest round me roars, I hear the truth it liveth. . . How can I keep from singing!”

-Reviewed by Dorothy Sampson

Book Discussion

Posted on: March 26th, 2014 by Dorothy Sampson No Comments

What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?  by David Harris-Gershon

A few months after the start of World War I, On Christmas Day 1914, the German and British troops spontaneously stopped shooting at each other.  They crossed through the barbed wire separating their positions and met on the ground between to play soccer, share photos and sing carols together.  It is a remarkable story.  The generals were not amused.  They knew that when a warrior begins to see the enemy as a human being, he begins to hesitate.  He is no longer fit for battle.  Indeed, after the troops were reprimanded, some of the men had to be pulled off the front line, because they could no longer kill as they were ordered to.

I thought of this story when I read David Harris-Gershon’s memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?  David and Jamie,  newlyweds, moved to Jerusalem full of hope.  Their adventure and dreams were shattered when a bomb exploded in the cafeteria at Hebrew University.  By a quirk of fate, Jaime, though severely injured, was spared but two close friends sitting beside her were killed.

The story continues as David tries to come to terms with what has happened. With the help of therapy, Jamie works through her trauma, but David’s healing stalls.  He cannot accept that a human being would do what the terrorist did to another human being. Between an inability to breathe regularly, compulsive behavior and insomnia, he begins studying every news article of the attack.  In one account, he reads that the Hamas bomber, Mohammad Odeh, expressed remorse, a small glimpse that the bomber is more than just a monster. This sets David on a search to understand the history of the two peoples, the cultural framework that cultivates such hatred.  In his study, he acknowledges that Palestinians as well as Jews have suffered and admits his own attitudes, suspicions, and distrust are complicit in the divide that leads to violence.  He resolves to meet the bomber, the man, face to face.  But, like the WWI generals who won’t permit fraternizing, the Israeli government has many strategies to prevent such an encounter of reconciliation.  David settles for a meeting with the Odeh family, whom he finds to be good and kind and he states “their talk was good.” It is a remarkable story.

– Reviewed by Dorothy Sampson