Metta’s Opinion

Training for Post-Election Violence Scenarios

An Interview with Eli McCarthy from DC Peace Team

Eli McCarthy, top row left

Over the past decade there has been a quantitative growth in organized unarmed civilian protection groups and violence de-escalation trainings within the United States. As people begin to awaken to the fact that the best way to defend democracy and achieve mass-participation in a democratic struggle is through creative nonviolent action, these organizations have seen an increase in the demand for their work and trainings. Especially during the period of this pandemic and increased civil unrest, they have had to work even harder to translate their best practices and trainings from in-person to online. Not an easy task!


One group who has been able to establish dynamic, effective unarmed protection and bystander intervention trainings is the DC Peace Team. To meet the needs of these times, they have included new nonviolent trainings in post-election violence scenarios and restorative practices for healing community tensions. You can find a list to sign up for a training at this link. 

I had a chance to ask Eli McCarthy, who helped co-found the organization, a few questions about their work and what makes their trainings practical for these times. 

What’s the story of the DC Peace Team? How did it come to be? 

In late 2010 Cortez McDaniel, a Community Change Agent with the National Homecomers Academy, as a returning citizen from experience in prison, met Eli McCarthy, a local social justice activist and a Professor at Georgetown University. Cortez has been committed to building and rebuilding family and community networks of mutual support, including caring for persons living on the streets at the McKenna Center. Along with community organizing experience, Eli had received training from the Nonviolent Peaceforce, which offers unarmed civilian protection and accompaniment to communities in conflict. The two shared their stories and discovered a common commitment to bringing a sustainable just peace to the city’s most violent and longstanding conflict zones. After sharing in an introductory session on the Nonviolent Peaceforce, Cortez and Eli created a coalition of individuals and groups to establish the DC Peace Team.

Over the last ten years, the DCPT has evolved to focus on unleashing the power of ordinary civilians to increasingly become nonviolent people who serve our communities using creative nonviolent skills, with a focus on unarmed accompaniment and protection. We have trained thousands of participants in nonviolent communication, bystander intervention, restorative circles, and unarmed civilian protection. We have offered training in DC, NY, TX, CA, and even China as well as reaching people in Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, Belgium, Palestine, and the UK through our online training. We have trained staff at the U.S. Institute of Peace, teachers, social workers, religious communities, farmer’s markets, art stores, young adults in juvenile detention, police officers, etc. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have offered online sessions 2 or 3 times a week with a significant increase in participation and hunger for these skills.

We also deploy unarmed civilian protection units to places of potential hostility, such as local neighborhood spaces or events as well as political demonstrations to prevent violence, interrupt dehumanization, and when possible to generate dialogue and empathy. These have included demonstrations such as the Republican national convention (Cleveland, 2016), Unite the right rally, March for life, Black Lives Matter marches, and migration events in Tijuana/San Diego, etc. We have also trained nonpartisan UCP units to offer accompaniment to high profile BIPOC individuals at risk for their just peace work and seeking congressional office.

We also offer restorative circles for the public and various groups such as community leaders in Garfield Hills (Anacostia, DC), returning citizens, persons experiencing homelessness at Fr. McKenna Center, and groups dealing with internal racism issues.

You’re really refining the experience of using online technology for skills to de-escalate violence in face to face interactions. What are some key features of your trainings that help engage participants more than just a webinar or online seminar?    

We have had an enormous growth in participation through our online training. We use a very participatory process with breakout rooms, stories, and participant google docs to help them follow along and get the key points. We create a safe and brave space for us to learn from each other in a process of mutual discovery.

You’re creating trainings for post-election violence scenarios for people across the country. What do these entail and why are they different than other trainings of the DC Peace Team?  

These training draw on our core modules of active bystander intervention, unarmed civilian protection, and nonviolent communication. They entail specific plausible scenarios such as at a polling station or at a board of elections office in light of a delay in announcing the winner. The ABI training is for individuals who may happen to be around a harmful or violent situation. The UCP training is for those who might deploy as a team to a potential hotspot. We have an ABI training on Oct. 17th and an UCP training on Oct. 31st focused on election scenarios. We are also happy to set up a specific training for your group at a date/time that would be convenient.


What other trainings do you offer and how do they fit into the larger picture of unarmed civilian protection?     

We also offer restorative justice circle training as well as nonviolence and meditation. These along with ABI and NVC training provide essential skills for UCP but also cultivate the habits, character, and way of life or spirituality to actualize UCP well with a broader imagination and commitment to nonviolence even in more difficult situations. 

Can you share a story of someone who was changed by your work? 

Recent Testimony from a participant:

“I wanted to share with you all an experience I had last Friday that has really validated for me the importance of the work you all are doing. 

I’ve just been learning how to drive, and was out with my cousins Friday night practicing driving through a residential area. I had stopped at a stop-sign and was about to make a turn when a car came speeding down the road, started skidding, there were sparks everywhere, and then it slammed into a tree, all right in front of us. The car started smoking, and I was scared it was going to catch fire and combust. 

I took a breath, calmed my mind, and told my cousin to call 911, while I darted out the car, into my trunk, grabbed my pocket knife, and ran towards the car. I was scared it would explode, which is why I had my knife to break open the window or cut the seat belt, if needed. I got to the car, opened the door easily, and there was a 15 year old kid in there. I’m first aid certified, and I did the initial assessment, and helped carry him out of the car and away. People started crowding around the car, and I started yelling at them to stay away from the car because it was smoking. Paramedics came, the kid was okay, and I gave an incident report.”

I share this experience for two reasons:

1.  First, without realizing it, I had applied the CLARA method which I learned in DCPT training, and was able to find calmness, before reacting very quickly. In past situations like this, I’ve frozen and not been able to act. I also knew to delegate responsibilities so I could focus on what I could do. and;

2. I knowingly ran into danger, and knew, before I even picked up my knife, that there was a chance that the car could catch fire. However, unlike the time when I was held at knife point and stepped in front of an elderly man, I’m not second guessing my decisions or tormenting myself over it. Eli and Sal, I actually thought of what you said to me, was that in moments of intense stress, we learn things about ourselves and what we’re capable of that we weren’t expecting. Probably the reason why I’m not going crazy thinking about that night, the way I did after nearly being knifed, was thanks to what you guys said to me all those weeks back, so thanks.

I’m proud to have been an active bystander in that situation, and I credit what I feel was a successful intervention to what I’m learning from you all. Briana and I talk about the DC Peace Team a lot, and we were saying that we learned from you all that we need to practice moral courage in our daily lives, so that we have the strength to step into brave spaces when we need it most, and this Friday all the training paid off.


What kind of training or skills should people have before coming to your training? 

Our introductory training sessions are open to anyone. For the UCP or ABI training, it can help to have taken an intro. to NVC and/or have been practicing NVC in one’s daily life. We have more advanced training or training for trainers, which we ask participants to have taken the same topic’s introductory session. 

Where should they go to learn more?   

You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; see our website (https://dcpeaceteam.com/) and sign up for our e-list to get updates on training, deployments, etc. You can also contact Eli McCarthy at esm52@georgetown.edu or 510-717-8867. 

The Hidden Power of Surrender: Bend or Break

by Annie Hewitt 

Michael Nagler PACS164A Lecture 12

The Patna Surrender (1922-1924) was Gandhi’s response to a split in the Congress Party based on whether or not to take part in local councils set up by the British. On one side was Nehru and his supporters, convinced that Indians should participate in the councils even though they were largely symbolic and wielded very little concrete power. On the other side was Gandhi, who believed that for Indians to join ineffective councils was to take part in a political lie, ultimately at their own expense. 

Gandhi finally gave up and yielded to Nehru — what made him cave in and surrender his position?

If we stop and look at this question, we can see that the language used is not neutral, certain terms connote weakness: 

‘Give up’

‘Yield’

‘Cave in’ 

‘Surrender’

What happens when we look at these words afresh, can we break free of our habitual understanding and in this, can we reconceive Gandhi’s decision? Gandhi himself saw the Patna surrender as a victory, an expression of strength. How could this be?

Professor Nagler explains that ‘caving in’ for Gandhi is in fact a source of power; caving in creates space. In a conflict, when one party gives up something, whether a physical position or a demand, that act of letting go makes more room for both sides. This room in turn allows for movement, the possibility that opposing parties might come together and move forward united towards a larger, common goal. In this, Gandhi’s decision to give up/yield/cave in/surrender might be seen as an instance of Boulding’s ‘integrative power’ in action.

Yielding thus need not be understood as a sign of frailty nor does it entail abandoning principles — quite the contrary! Gandhi’s view suggests that surrendering is an act of creation which gives something to both sides. It reflects the wisdom found in a wider perspective, an awareness of our shared humanity, which is always there, underlying all our relationships, even if temporary masked by the narrow parameters of an immediate conflict. 

Haemon, in Sophocles’ Antigone expresses a similar point when talking to his father who rigidly clings to his position in opposition to his niece. Haemon encourages King Creon to be flexible, to adapt and bend, making space for Antigone’s position. In the end, far from expressing weakness, nature itself reveals this kind of expansive action to be a way to survive and grow. 

Please don’t be quite so single-minded, self-involved, or assume the world is wrong and you are right. …it’s no disgrace for a man, even a wise man, to learn many things and not to be too rigid. You’ve seen trees by a raging winter torrent, how many bend and sway with the flood and salvage every twig, but not the stubborn—they’re ripped out, roots and all. Bend or break.

Third Harmony Screenings

The Third Harmony tells the story of nonviolence, humanity’s greatest (and most overlooked) resource.

“To be nonviolent is be an artist of your humanity,” says Palestinian nonviolence leader and founder of the Taygheer Movement, Ali Abu Awwad, in a new documentary about the power of nonviolence and a new vision of human nature. Drawing on interviews with veteran activists like Civil Rights leader Bernard Lafayette, scientists like behaviorist Frans de Waal and neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, political scientist Erica Chenoweth, futurist Elisabet Sahtouris, and others, this 44-minute documentary will help the general public, often at a loss to understand the protests occurring in many cities, to better grasp just what nonviolence is and how it works. The film also delves into the important role that nonviolence plays in the wider struggle to develop a new theory of human nature, how every one of us can add to our personal growth and fulfillment while benefitting society through the use of this time-tested power. 

Directed and produced by the respected nonviolence scholar and author, Michael Nagler, co-founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies Department at U.C. Berkeley, the viewer is given the deep awareness that nonviolence is a serious field of study, or in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Nonviolence is not the inanity people have taken it for.”

For information about screenings of the Third Harmony, visit the film’s website at this link.


What Gandhi Means to Me

Margaret Bourke-White’s famous portrait of Gandhi at his spinning wheel in 1946.

I didn’t learn about Gandhi until I was in graduate school. I joined a Master’s program in Conflict Resolution at Portland State, after spending two years in the United States Peace Corps (Benin 2005-2007). Nothing in my education before then, nothing in my upbringing in the Shenandoah Valley, rural Virginia, mentioned him. When I was in the Peace Corps, someone had left a reproduction of Margaret Bourke-White’s portrait of him on the spinning wheel in my house in a village in rural northern Benin, and I had that on my wall. I recognized him, of course, his stature, his work for peace, but if pressed for any aspect of his life or work, I would have struggled to come up with anything that resembles something accurate about his life or about nonviolence really. I imagine it’s like that for many of us.

Later, as I took up an interest in Gandhi studies, I read around in Joan Bondurant’s “Conquest of Violence,” in various other books that compiled quotes from the Mahatma. I even toyed with the idea of focusing on “Gandhian Philosophy” for my graduate research (which makes me laugh now because Gandhi’s way of life was never a philosophy. It’s a course of deliberate action). It was missing something. I wanted to know about the person, about myself ultimately. I knew he represented that search in some way.

It wasn’t until I began connecting with the work of the Metta Center for Nonviolence that Gandhi took on an even wider dimension. My friends and I began simplifying our lives. We took up meditation. We cut out as much consumerism as we could. We sought more communal structures, more humane ways of engaging with the earth and each other. It came on fast. I wanted to learn and put into practice a form of self-transformation that expressed itself spiritually and politically. If I had been alive in Gandhi’s time, I would have wanted to go to join his experiments in India — I have not the shadow of a doubt! 

Michael Nagler told me that something similar happened to him. Gandhi was so far away, so out of reach for someone growing up in Brooklyn, New York. It wasn’t until he met his spiritual teacher, Sri Eknath Easwaran, that Gandhi became “more accessible” and “greater” than he had even imagined. Later, when I worked as a pre-school teacher in a Montessori classroom, I had three to six-year-olds who could describe “civil disobedience” and knew about how Gandhi transformed his anger into power. (I wrote my book “Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children,” inspired by those children’s interest in him as they learned about nonviolence from me and my co-teacher.)

What I understand now is that the greatness in Gandhi has to do with what we share in common with him. That he represents for us the capacity that all of us have to examine ourselves in relation to others and the world around us, to examine the quality of our thinking, our capacity for depth into the very heart of matters, while drawing upon a force of life, which he also referred to as Truth, and Love. To think deeply and to act with confidence and conviction when grounded in a higher image of who we are.

On Gandhi’s birthday, Oct. 2, he wanted people in the movement not to make it about him, but about the work of nonviolence. He called it the “spinning wheel birthday,” or Charkha Jayanti. The United Nations has designated it as the International Day of Nonviolence. 

I invite you to join us at Metta in the work of nonviolence and upholding Gandhi’s legacy by learning about some of the key concepts and ideals that shaped Gandhi’s life. At Metta, we created a series called “Gandhi for Beginners” — 24 short audio talks that address questions like “What is Satyagraha?” or “What were Gandhi’s rules of fasting?” or “Who were some of Gandhi’s influences.” 

Happy Charkha Jayanti.

Like This We March

Confronted on a train while riding in the first-class compartment for which he had paid,
soft-spoken, brown-skinned Mohandas Gandhi recognized his treatment by railway officials 
as unfair, even barbaric. To their humiliations he would never choose to become accustomed.
Incredulous, he repelled the insults, refusing their demands to move to a second-class carriage.
He reasoned, “I have a ticket for this seat.” But, to no avail. 
For his resistance, he was thrown from the train, his luggage tossed beside him.

Young barrister, stylish and suited in the English way, he had pride and courage; he knew his place
was not on the ground, nor in the gravel. 
Mild-natured, he rose from the earth and took aim, determined to speak and demonstrate his Truth
without fighting back. Resolute, he took the blows when they came. 
His conviction grew: that Right Action would prevail, and violence fail.
In this, he remained unshaken.

Intelligent, educated, most clever, yet simple, 
he knew his foes in the struggle; he could think just like them. Thus, he came to expect equal treatment.
Trained in law, familiar with nuance, he understood the Magna Carta from which British jurisprudence flowed,
the laws and protections which governed the lives of English citizens. 
His inner reasoning was sound: Like you, we are industrious, self-reliant human beings, just of different color.
As Indian subjects of the British Crown, your laws and protections should apply to us.

Collective memory had not yet faded, it remained deeply etched in the plain: 
The grain from our mouths you have taken; hunger in our homes and famine on our land was in your name.
You have claimed the livelihood of our weavers and artisans. All our wealth you have drained.
Shooting down a peaceful gathering of our people, how came the orders for such shame?
No longer will we tolerate such cruelty, disregard or anonymity. You have treated us with disdain.
In all your battles, we stood by you; we gave our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands for you.
Our earth and hearts are stained; this arrangement can no longer be sustained! 
The time of atonement is here, the moment of reckoning most near: for our true loyalty and deep affection,
our sacrifices in your name, the tough scars which remain and may never be slain, we demand you
restore us with our freedom! 

As fervor for India’s independence grew, Gandhi became more sure-footed and unflinching.
He showed us that when we gather we must band together, hold hands for our Truth,
act with Spirit to rectify past wrongs, recover self-rule in every step. 
He insisted that when we march, we act with caution:
We must resist the dark abyss of violence, he proclaimed;
he knew we must dodge this Demon, skirt it assiduously, to prevail.

Reverend Martin Luther King urged the same,
to lift voices skyward to our Creator, but not raise arms;
to sound the gavel, call for justice, hymn the praises of nonviolence and the Lord.
The Reverend and our Mahatma called upon us, both with their conviction and their passion,
to gather, to march, with love in our hearts
to take back what God already granted each one of us:
the salt from the sea, our equality,
an understanding of our humanity.

For our rights, for our mother earth, for those who are silent or invisible,
peaceably we march. We each matter, each one of us.
With our intellect and will, and wit as well, we elevate our voices to resist injustice.
Do not despair: we raise no arms, we will not kill.
We will speak, we will chant,
we will sing of the common life we share,
encircle those who need our protection, 
take back the lands of which we are the rightful heirs.

We must nourish and protect our Truth,
cultivate our trust in the peaceful fight, the boycott power of our changeable ways.
Principle and perseverance our weapons, 
clever strategic thought is our way.
To change the hearts of others, our compassion and humility must grow.
To change the laws of this country, we must believe in each other and our imperative, 
resist the wrongs bestowed.

If hope dims, the struggle too long, then 
inspiration we can re-discover.
Our humanity will unite us; 
neither color, nor creed divide us.
Let humility guide us.

We are strong, we belong, 
worthy resistance we can sow.

Like this we march.

Poem by Ira Batra Garde. Ira (pronounced “Eera”) is a physician, poet, wife, and mother. She lives with her family in the San  Francisco Bay Area and is currently at work on a novel exploring themes of history, culture, and psychological truth.  

Gandhi and Us: A Message from Michael Nagler

Today marks the 151st anniversary of Gandhi’s birth (Oct. 2, 1869) — and a crisis in American and world democracy such as I, for one, never dreamed I would witness in my by-now long lifetime.  For some time now, it has seemed that these two forces, the downward drive into chaos and violence and the uplifting surge of nonviolence in practice and understanding, have been growing towards some sort of climax.

What we have to do is very clear, in a way even inspiring: venerate the Mahatma’s legacy more than ever by rededicating ourselves to the hallowed path of personal empowerment > constructive program > (and if still necessary) nonviolent resistance.  More and more people are becoming aware that something’s seriously wrong and are looking around, pretty urgently, for a way out.  Well, did not the Civil Rights movement label nonviolence, drawing on an old spiritual, “the way out of no way”?

Gandhi Searches For Truth

Gandhi didn’t want October 2nd to be called his birthday, but rather “charkha jayanti,” the birthday of the spinning wheel, the sun that stood with pride and hope at the center of the “solar system” of constructive programme.  At Metta, as many of you know, we have thought long and deep about what the ‘charkha’ or central act every nonviolence actor could do today.  Our conclusion: uplift the human image at the center of the “new story:” that inspiring model of the universe and human nature to which our Third Harmony Project now is dedicated.

Great to be with you on this priceless path.

Michael Nagler

A Dream Realized!

MICHAEL NAGLER REFLECTS ON THE PREMIERE OF THE THIRD HARMONY DOCUMENTARY FILM BELOW.

Dear friends,

My heart is full of love, hope, and gratitude as our long-awaited film is having its world premiere at the Illuminate Film Festival and friends are already writing to us with such enthusiastic greetings:  

I got my notification just after midnight that the movie was available to watch, so I just sat down and watched it all. I’m filled with such hope for the first time in a long time. It is a beautiful film on every level (aesthetically, narratively, etc etc) that conveys these ideas in such a straightforward and powerful way. I truly can not wait to use it with students! . . . Looking forward to the panel discussion on Saturday. Bravo!!!

Since I can’t improve on those words from a friend and colleague, let me just point out that the panel she refers to will be 5:30 pm Pacific this Thursday, and features Rajmohan Gandhi, Erica Chenoweth, and Clay Carson.  There is also a “Reel Healing” conversation with Marianne Williamson on the Illuminate site available to those who’ve bought a ticket to the film + panel.

While we designed the film (run-time 44 minutes) for schools and colleges, and teachers are already showing a lot of eagerness to use it, (a curriculum guide will be ready soon), it’s a general introduction to nonviolence and its situation in the “new story” of human nature that should be of use, not to mention of inspiration, to beginners and experienced practitioners alike.  It’s the first film, as far as we know, to really explore the intuitive connection between the practical aspects of nonviolence — the last part shares five steps anyone can follow — and its deep implications for who and what we think we are as human beings. 

It has long been our belief at Metta that the key leverage point for changing humanity from its disastrous course is the uplifting of the human image from that of a separate material fragment adrift in a meaningless universe to an evolving spiritual being inseparable from others and the rest of creation, endowed with the privilege and responsibility of playing our role, individually and together, in the unfolding of human destiny. 

Over the last few years, we’ve come to see more and more that the uniting of activists and spiritual practitioners, the fusion of the search for nonviolence, and the search for a new story, is the missing link to add critical momentum to the ongoing struggles for social change.  In this exploration, nonviolence emerges as both the missing link in the completion of the new story and the tool to install that as the overarching paradigm guiding our steps out of the existential dangers of racial violence, economic distortion, and climate disruption to a new world.

I am more convinced than ever that this film will make a difference.  And it could not be more needed.  Please see for yourself, and help us spread the word.

Warmest greetings,

Michael

If you were unable to attend the Illuminate festival, you can catch it at the following screenings —

Global Peace Week at Valencia College September 21st, 2020

United Nations Association Film Festival at Palo Alto, Stanford University, East Palo Alto and San Francisco from October 15-25.

And more to come!

 

 

Imagination, NV, Nuclear Weapons

The Children’s Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan

There have been cataclysmic changes in the world. Do I still adhere to my faith in truth and nonviolence? Has not the atom exploded that faith? Not only has it not done so but it has clearly demonstrated to me that the twins constitute the mightiest force in the world. Before it, the atom bomb is of no effect. ~M.K. Gandhi

Dear Metta Community, 

As statues and monuments for violence come down around the world, we should also turn attention toward a set of thousands of violent “statues” still waiting to be used for harm, the ones dedicated to future mass-murder and destruction– nuclear weapons.  Knowing the violence they can do and have done, governments around the world continue to build, house, and defend them. Make no mistake: these statues must be removed and abolished. And they will be if we commit ourselves to nonviolence. 

Anna Ikeda, a Metta board member, who has dedicated her work to the abolition of nuclear weapons had these reflections to share on the 75th commemoration of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 

I still clearly remember that one of the things that really struck me when I read Michael’s The Search for a Nonviolent Future several years ago, was that he described violence as “a failure of imagination.”  When I think about why we still have to continue talking about and working for abolishing nuclear weapons, 75 years after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that claimed so many lives, these words ring true.

Too many people simply lack imagination that we could live in a world without nuclear weapons, a world that does not depend on the threat of mass violence to maintain “peace and security.” Somehow those weapons are considered a necessary evil, worthy of spending trillions of dollars that could be spent on healthcare, education, and other human needs.

Those weapons, if used by accident or on purpose, can alter our ecosystems and climate irreversibly. They have been tested on the lands of Indigenous people.
So in a just, nonviolent society that we are working towards, nuclear weapons have no place. 

Michael also wrote,

“If I don’t have the imagination to realize that you and I are one, despite our physical separateness and the differences in our outlooks on life, what’s to prevent me from using violence if I think you’re getting in my way?”

Nuclear weapons are the very embodiment of the lack of imagination because those who justify them or are willing to deploy them are completely lacking imagination, to the extent that they are willing to use the kind of violence that can destroy our world many times over.


So perhaps what I call for people to do, on this anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is that we work on the power of imagination.

Imagine a world where nuclear weapons are eliminated – what would it take to get there, and what is the role of each of us? 


Below you’ll find a list of resources curated by Anna to share with you. Please take the time to check them out. 

In heart unity, 
Stephanie Van Hook, Executive Director 

PS: Michael Nagler hosts Hope Tank on Friday mornings on Zoom. Find out how to join the discussion and be added to our list here. 

“Every second of every day, nuclear weapons endanger everyone we love and everything we hold dear. Is it not yet the time for soul searching, critical thinking, and positive action about the choices we make for human survival?” ~Setsuko Thurlow

Resources to get involved in anti-nuclear action: 

Action:  Attend events  Educate yourself 

This is part of our bi-weekly newsletter, the Practical Idealist. You can sign up for it here.