It's Martin Luther King, Jr Day. When I was back in college, ages ago, I took a class on movements of peace. It was Notre Dame, a catholic university, after all. We studied Buber, Freire and Gandhi. We got into Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement as well.
Movements of peace can change nations. They can change race relations. They can change humanity.
But they don't stop there. Movements of peace are everywhere. Maybe it was the getting ready for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and all that entails, but last week I was sent two different animal stories about natural enemies becoming friends like in the picture above, acts of gentleness between the hunter and the hunted, and unlikely, unnatural animals becoming friends: The Animal Odd Couple
I marveled at the stories. They made my heart sing. They made me wonder about my own species.
And then life set in and I got back to my daily work.
Then yesterday, it all came back, and the perennial question - Can We All Get Along? - loomed larger than life in mine.
It all began with my husband trying to pull out into traffic. The lanes were full, the light red. But a hole opened up. The car in front of us pulled out - a right hand turn. Then my husband tried to scoot in. The SUV coming from the left cut him off and the woman driving got angry at my husband for trying to pull out. There was some unintelligible fist waving. My husband got angry. I, trying to keep the peace, told him he shouldn't automatically expect people to let him out, even if the light was red.
He didn't agree. When he pulled out a few moments later, he pulled up next to the woman and gestured toward her, as he told me how she was wrong.
I was monkey in the middle and really wishing I wasn't there.
For the record, he's a pretty decent guy, but he grew up in Germany, and if you drive like this person had in Germany, well, let's just say you should be prepared for rolled down windows, lots of yelling and fist waving, maybe even the finger. They are a very vocal people when it comes to driving. And very aggressive.
I tried to explain to him as we drove on that we don't do that in the U.S. He wasn't having it, so I pulled out some of my wise mother's classic lines that as a teenager I hated, but are really pretty on the nose right. I told him, if you act like that, you make yourself no better than the person who wasn't kind to you. You lower yourself to that level. Let it go and move on. He still didn't agree and the drive continued on with us batting points back and forth like a pair of relentless tennis players.
Did I mention we were on our way to see the movie, "Gran Torino," with Clint Eastwood?
My husband had traded me out shopping at the mall for what I thought was a classic guy flic, like "The Terminator", "Dirty Harry," "Hang 'Em up Higher" and now I was worried the movie was just going to exacerbate the point we'd been arguing over, reacting aggressively vs. letting it go.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
In the middle of the movie, when the Mong gang attacks Eastwood's neighbor's house and rapes the young girl who lives there, my husband turned to me and said, and when someone's that aggressive, do you let that go too? (Our car discussion was still sitting in both our brains, and I feared Eastwood was going to sink my husband's point home with a few well-aimed bullets).
It was really moving then that the man who has portrayed figures like Dirty Harry and played in so many westerns that had their share of violence, has chosen this movie as the last movie he will act in. It's his message to the world.
I won't give away the ending, but let me say that he doesn't resolve violence with violence. Clint Eastwood sends out a message that many of his fans might not be ready to hear, or at least will be incredibly surprised to see that this is the message he wants to leave the world with.
My husband and I were both thoughtful as we walked out. Eastwood's message was simple. It was Movements of Peace simple: You end the violence only by ending the violence, not by retaliating with it.
Thanks Buber, Freire, Gandhi, King, and Eastwood. With people like you, humanity still has a chance.
Peace out world.
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