What the Liberal Left Can Learn From Mahatma Gandhi

Ever since I came to the United States, I have always been puzzled with a certain attitude in this country. Why do so many ordinary, god-fearing Republicans in this country oppose measures such as free healthcare for all? What do they mean when they say they are ‘against Obama as a matter principle’?

I have slowly started realizing that there are some fundamental issues that need to be solved before moderate Republicans will vote for President Obama and health care. (This is my second post on this subject; you can read the first post here.)

The violence by Anarchists in Seattle on 1st May is one such issue that drives ordinary people away from the movement. An example from the life of Mahatma Gandhi would make this point clear.

It was February, 1922 and the non-cooperation movement in India was in full swing under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji (as he is known affectionately in India) knew that the only way to get out from under British rule was to keep high moral ground, refuse to indulge in violence and refuse to cooperate with the British government. The movement was wildly successful and resulted in complete disruption of government services. British ‘raj’ was shaken to its core as its economy started deteriorating.

At the height of the struggle, something unfortunate happened. Police responded heavy-handedly to a protest and opened fire on unarmed people. This resulted in the death of three and several others were wounded. The mob that was non-violent up to that point became enraged and reacted by burning down a police station, killing all 23 police officers trapped inside.

How did Gandhiji react to the incidence of protests turning violent? He took an extraordinary step of recalling the movement. Imagine this! He recalled an extremely successful nationwide movement because of one violent incident in a small village.

Gandhiji was criticized by many. Almost all of his contemporaries was unhappy with this decision, though they went along with it because of their respect for Gandhiji. Even today, Gandhiji continues to be criticized for this decision.

Even I used to think that Gandhiji was at fault but lately I have realized that there is an important lesson here. One cannot let a movement run astray. It has to remain true to its original aims. No one should be allowed to hijack a movement and use it to serve a different agenda.

An important part of the non-cooperation movement was that it remained non-violent. Gandhiji knew that non-violence is the only way a protest movement can maintain its high moral ground. It is essentially the high moral ground that brought the British down to their knees. It was the principle of non-violence that encouraged ordinary Indians to join the movement.

This is exactly why I was sick to my stomach when I opened the paper on 2nd May and read the news about anarchists taking over the May Day protests in Seattle. Since the organizers knew that something like this could happen then they should have ensured that a few troublemakers would not be allowed to shatter the peaceful nature of the protests.

What do you think ordinary Republicans would think about the violence? Did it not provide fodder to Republican-mouthpiece media all over the country?

We must address these issues for “Obama 2012″ to be a reality.