Friday, March 2, 2012

Fighting war without fighting

With the G8 and NATO summits coming to Chicago this May, there's a huge amount of concern over the violence and damage that could come to the city via protestors. Activists and protestors have a lengthy history as being categorized as troublemakers and unruly young people, but there's a large community of activists making real change in the country that most people don't know about.

Right now, there's a network of peace activists and professional protestors across the country who base their lives around creative non-violence. That's actually the technical term for what they do. Harkening back to one of the creative minds we're studying in class, Gandhi, those in the non-violent community have been using creative and innovative ideas to bring attention to the peace movement.

I was blessed to spend my spring break both freshman and sophomore years with two communities who center their lives around non-violence: the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington, DC, and Jonah House in Baltimore, Maryland.

While I could go on forever about both, here's what you need to know about Jonah House. They're a community of women, some of whom are women religious (read: nuns) who take part in nonviolent resistance actions, specifically relating to nuclear proliferation. Some of their actions are known as "plowshares actions." The term relates to Isaiah 2:4, which states "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.Often, plowshares actions consist of breaking onto the site of a nuclear weapons holding facility, hammering on the weapons, and pouring their own blood onto them as a symbol of the killing and loss of life that the weapons are capable of. Thus, they are "beating to swords into plowshares" symbolically.

Those involved in the actions do so knowing that they will face prison time. This form of civil disobedience is deliberate, and done to bring attention to their cause in a way that doesn't involve burning cars, beating police, or wreaking havoc on a city.

The novel process came about when brothers Dan and Phil Berrigan did the first plowshares action in 1980. This type on non-violent action had never been done before, and spawned a series of subsequent plowshares actions, which continue today. Others in their field followed suit, as the Berrigans were already well-known in the peace community for other non-violent actions they've done. And apparently, plowshares actions have made enough of an impact that Loyola sends students every year to Jonah House as part of the Alternative Break Immersion Program.

To learn more about the plowshares actions, here's a video made by the Jonah House community:


  1. I love that this became a topic for the blog. It is so fascinating the way non-violent actions can be so effective. Society, on the whole, teaches that the best way to solve a problem is through violence. Whether it be through foreign policy, movies, video games or any other modes of communication, the message is clear: violence is not only an acceptable, but a preferred option. I also went on an ABI, unfortunately I did not have a chance to visit the Dorothy Day or Jonah houses, but I was able to hear about them at presentations and I was in awe of their dedication and all that non-violence can accomplish. I think these techniques are revolutionary because they not only question but high light societal norms and the problems these norms create. On my ABI, we met a pair of nuns that worked to allow prayer in the Broadview Detention center. They spoke about their experiences and how protests at the detention center and perseverance were able to change long held regulations. Here is a link to an article about them, if anybody is interested.
    In class we talked about what traits creative people possess and if there is a 'creative personality'. I would agree with many of the of the qualities (imagination, playfulness, dedication, etc., but i think the most important factor is passion. If you have a passion for something, anything, you will want to delve deeper and explore as much as possible. The members of the Dorothy Day House, Jonah House and all over peaceful activists have created a new domain of social discourse and I believe it is their passion for their work that has allowed them to be successful.

  2. I think this is a creative way of protesting, or at the very least I've never heard of anyone doing this before. It also attempts to solve the problem of rampant violence and end the killings that are done by these weapons and the people that use them.
    It was a little disturbing to learn that they were using their own blood to mark these weapons, but I love the symbolism behind it. It is great to see people being creative in an effort to better the world and to promote peace. Their efforts remind me a lot of Gandhi's method of civil disobedience, satyagraha. Gandhi would fast, enduring personal suffering, to try to win independence for the Indian people. He believed that no moral human being would just let another person suffer, hoping that others would compromise with Gandhi in order to stop him from fasting. Similarly, the nuns are giving their own blood in order to arouse emotions in people that view the marked weapons in the hope that they can put an end to the use of devastating weapons.


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