In fact, not many arguments are needed to prove that violence is not the best tool. It is apparently enough to study the U.S. history thoroughly and it will become obvious that violent actions are hardly effective for long-term outcomes. They do solve some of the problems and they definitely change the overall situation, but sometimes it only looks like the symptoms being cured instead of the cause. The women’s suffrage movement, the industrial union movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement, and the environmental movement are to name only few, but the most eloquent. In every case the changes at governmental level were achieved, but a step to the next movement activism cycle was definitely needed. Today strategic nonviolence is becoming a more popular principle of social movements, and there are plenty of reasons for that. “Any form of violence, whether property damage or physical battles with opponents and police, will turn off the great majority of Americans and bring down overwhelming police and military repression,”ť Adamson and Borgos (200) claim. Having realized that truth, social and political activists turn to moral renunciation of violence. The Civil Rights Movement, for example, is reported to have succeeded due to the deep religious faith of the central participants as well as strong belief in the ideal of American democracy. Nonviolence is from time to time associated with religious sentiment, but is rather regarded as philosophy of new generations. It is a strategy used to win in conflicts despite class antagonisms and form of the conflict. What is more, it becomes a part of a wider system of values where there is no place for violence, even when the opponent is provoking it by delays, provocations, and any other violent acts. Cesar Chavez, the lease of the farm worker’s movement, recognized that violence was wrong and stupid (Rable 139). For the adherents of this new philosophy, property destruction or a sudden shift to armed struggle can never be an option, whatever the end.
Still, “one natural reaction is to fight back in kind ”“ to return violence with violence, slander with slander, reprisals with sabotage,”ť Adamson and Borgos (135) remind. It is quite understandable that nonviolence cannot be an effective strategy in non-democratic contexts. It would be enough to refer to the Jews in Nazi Germany or Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. But political context is not the full answer. The roots of violence can be traced genetically, and the American society is a bright example for such an investigation.
According to numerous surveys, the majority of the American citizens are extremely against violence. “Property damage and armed struggle of any kind are overwhelmingly rejected by the vast majority of the American people,”ť Alterman, and Mattson (367) inform. The extreme reactions of the demonstrators can never please them even when the primary instigators are the police. They claim to argue that it does not matter who is right and who is wrong, who started and who will finish. That is why it is concluded that gaining adherents through physical confrontations is not easy (Alterman and Mattson 236).
However, the truth is the Americans instinctively strive after violence. For example, in August 2002 George Bush started military actions against Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein. No evidence or explanation was provided, but the American nation did not react until the French, Germans, Russians, and Chinese opposition pushed them to action. The United States is regarded as a democratic society accustomed to war. Each significant historical achievement has been reached through wars. This habit in blood made the Americans accept violence so easily. Every stage and aspect of the American national experience has been accompanied by violence, as Richard Maxwell Brown noted (as cited in Adamson and Borgos 369). This predilection for war and domestic violence has not received much scholar coverage, but it seems to be worth of attention. It is especially painful to recognize because the Americans have got their own self-image as of being peace-loving and humane, whereas they probably slightly understand the role war has played throughout the American experience. “Historians, however, are well aware that war taught Americans how to fight, helped unite the diverse American population, and helped stimulate the national economy, among other significant things”ť (Alterman and Mattson 307). American presidents have directed at least 200 military actions across the globe between 1789 and 1945. Although association between war and civilian violence is still extremely unexplored territory, predisposition is not so hidden. The use of violence is frequent and widespread throughout the American history, and violence is inextricably intertwined with American culture. “A democratic society can commit genocide, as is illustrated by the history of the United States. I need only remind you of what happened to the American Indians and the black people,”ť Albert and Albert (354) recognize. Beginning with violence against Native American Indians to oppression of African-Americans, violence against Mexican-Americans and Asians, untold riots, vigilante actions and lynchings are among numerous historical facts. The number of intended victims of warfare and genocide among Native American Indians is about 753,000 between 1622 and 1900. About 750,000 African-Americans add. As for all the other forms of collective violence, the total number of deathly victims is under 20,000. The greatest American riot, the New York City Draft Act riots of July 1863, resulted in between 105 and 150 deaths, while the major 1960s riots (Watts, Los Angeles, Newark, N.J., and Detroit, Mich., accounted for a total of 103 deaths, and the 1992 Los Angeles riot claimed 60 lives (Rable 311).
All in all, violence has become the price of the well-known American Dream, discovered in material success and respectability. The Americans are extremely against violence when you ask them, but their “selective”ť recollection, also diagnosed as “historical amnesia”ť cannot justify the truth. The citizens of the United States are genetically predisposed to war and violence, that is why this feature can be effectively manipulated by political leaders. However, the reason is given to a human being to overcome the instincts. From that on, nonviolent strategy is much more justified and I hope it will help to change the way we achieve our goals.