“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind,” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
I cried for George Floyd.
Tears streaked down my face as I tried to find the words to explain such violence, such disregard for human life to my children.
Like so many times before, I couldn’t understand how a life was taken with such little regard. I sat shocked as I watched the tape over and over again—somehow, I thought it would change; that my fourth viewing would magically make the police officer hear George Floyd’s pleas.
It didn’t of course, and I was left to think how I could enact change, what actions could I take that would lend my voice to the marginalized and persecuted.
I’m no stranger to protest, I spent time at Standing Rock participating in marches, locking arms with protesters, chanting phrases, and sitting on the bridge facing tanks and armed police looking more like militia. I’ve walked in protest to Trump’s election, and lent my voice to causes that broke my heart.
Yet today I’m sitting here with a feeling of helplessness. I’m unsure how to navigate this time and I don’t know how to use my voice in the correct way.
I fell in love with Gandhi’s words and his mission in elementary school—I loved his approach to life and I respected his bravery in how he approached life. He chose peace, even when that was the hardest of routes. I was 12 and I had been watching my older sister become consumed with anger and rage; she reminded me of a minefield—take a wrong step and she would explode. I saw her character and all all of her positives being erased by the anger she allowed to overtake her. I didn’t want that for my life, so at 12 I made myself a vow that I would chose peace. I would lead with love, even when all logic would tell me to fight.
Now I watch the protests unfold, and I see the looting and the fire. I see the young girl covered in pepper spray and I hear the cries against the police. My heart hurts as I hear people call for the death of police, and then for the death of the protesters. I see the anger, the cars swallowed by fire seeming to symbolize a world that is in chaos.
Yet I try to view the world through my pacifist lens. I try to see it with love and understanding. This is often misconstrued as compliance—I’m told that I need to respect the destruction of buildings, that by speaking out against the protests I’m speaking from a place of hate or privilege.
So today I sat with that—I watched the news, I walked my dog, and I meditated all with hopes of gaining clarity in such a murky situation. I came up with words that I hope will help, words that can speak to my beliefs and the feelings of others who try to live a peaceful life.
I believe in peace.
I practice pacifism.
I try to lead with love.
Even as my voice trembles in anger.
Even when my eyes swell with injustice.
I’m not remaining silent.
I am not compliant.
I believe in protests,
In using my voice,
In walking in solidarity,
In peaceful protest.
I believe in love.
I won’t be a part of riots.
My voice will never scream out curses,
Or wish harm on the police.
I don’t understand why “Grab them by the pussy” is wrong,
But “F*ck Trump” is okay.
I’m choosing peace, but please understand this isn’t inaction—it’s in fact the greatest action I can take.
Choosing peace means I won’t—I can’t loot a building or justify violence even when provoked.
Understand that my heart hurts, that I want to scream from the rooftops, that I want justice for all.
That if I’m there when violence happens, I’ll place my body over the victim, I’ll use my voice, my presence, my privilege to protect someone.
But I won’t threaten the police or scream at counter protesters.
I understand that my way of life doesn’t have to be yours, that I can chose peace and you can choose to physically demonstrate your anger.
I understand that our country was founded on rebellion, I’ve seen the comparisons to the Boston Tea party and I’m not arguing.
I respect the choices of the protesters, I feel for the police officers that are honorable that are dealing with such hate, and my heart breaks for the families of those lost to racism and injustice.
I’ll sit with you, I’ll walk with you, I respect you and your ideals.
But please respect mine.
Understand that just because I’m choosing peace doesn’t mean I’m silent.
My rebellion may look different than yours—it is still important and valid.
I may choose to sit in protest when you want me to push past police lines.
I understand my beliefs may frustrate you, that you want to see my anger at the injustice.
I feel it, I feel the sadness and the grief over the state of our country, our world.
I grieve for George Floyd, but please understand I also grieve for the police officers who have been attacked just for wearing a badge.
Human life is human life, and I believe it is all equal.
I understand that I don’t use the slogans you want, and that you think this takes away from your plight.
Please know that isn’t the case; it’s simply that I see each human equally, my heart breaks for any life lost whether it is my best friend or my worst enemy.
I understand I may not be your cup of tea, that you may see me as weak or compliant.
All I’m asking is for you to take a moment—to respect my beliefs just as I respect yours.
My resistance looks different then the images on the news, and maybe to you it seems less than…
But it isn’t, my rebellion is valid, same as yours.
My voice matters, same as yours.
We are fighting for justice, for freedom.
So please understand my freedom is cloaked in peace, that my road must be one of the pacifists.
Before you judge others’ journeys, listen to their words, see them for their heart.
For me, it’s peace, it’s pacifism, it’s love even when it’s hard.
This is my path, I won’t force you on it.
I’ll respect your choices, please respect mine.