I was visiting my friend in her weaving studio when I first heard about a powerful project taking place in the southern Arizona desert, the borderland between Mexico and the United States. Her youngest daughter has been volunteering with a group of people who call themselves ‘NO MAS MUERTES,‘ (No More Deaths!), and their work consists in part, of bringing water, food, clothing and other needed supplies to sites set up across a specific patch of desert where many people arrive fleeing violence (both structural and direct) from parts of Central and South America. The supplies, for many, mean the difference between life and death. The group also works on guidelines for humane immigration policy along with efforts to raise consciousness about what is taking place and to build a movement around it.
“The true revolutionary,” said Cesar Chavez, “is guided by great feelings of love.” These people are not offering “gotcha” politics out of contention or hatred in their hearts. They want to help people through the desert because they know, deep in their bones, that it is the right thing to do. One of their volunteers is Ely Ortiz, who became active after finding the remains of his brother and cousin in the desert. “I can identify with the people who need help. I put myself in their situation. I remember the suffering and desperation,” he said. This is a natural response, this kind of love. And we all have it in us. If we let the situation faced by others in distress “sink in” none of us would stand by idly and let it continue to happen. When our hearts are moved, we spring into constructive action: let’s find a way to do something helpful. Where there was no time before, suddenly the time makes itself available. Our priorities shift. Where we saw only our own interests before, we see the welfare of others as important as our own. And ultimately, when we meet with resistance to our constructive activity, we are willing to take the next step, too, and overcome that resistance with nonviolence. This is what Gandhi called soul-force, Satyagraha.
Think of a protest that you know of or were engaged in. What might have been a constructive action to try first?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org