By Ryan Lau | CALIFORNIA
“An eye for an eye makes the world go blind.” This famous quote, originally uttered by revolutionary peaceful activist Mohandas Gandhi, has been utilized as a justification against violence time and time again. Conversely, with members of both the current political right and left violently protesting in the streets of our nation, these words are under attack. For reference, let me first elaborate on the specific incidents which have virulently opposed the principles of nonviolence.
In light of the recent influx in radical Islamic terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, protests against the fundamentalist Islamic law, Sharia, are being staged across the United States.
ACT for America, a nonprofit grassroots national security organization, is behind the rallies and has planned over two dozen of them nationwide, from Dallas to New York. At nearly every gathering, counter-protesters have gathered to condemn ACT for America’s message.
Among the counter-protesters are labor activists, Anti-fa members, and self-proclaimed left-wing anarchists.
This combination, it has been shown, is a recipe for disaster in the current tense political climate. For example, Seattle police were required to break up numerous fights in Occidental Park with pepper spray, where three were arrested. Seven more were arrested on violent charges in St Paul, Minnesota, as were two in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and dozens more across the country. As for who perpetrated the violence, that isn’t always clear, but this information is frankly irrelevant. There is something fundamentally wrong with the initiation of force against another individual, given that the individual has not in any way violated anyone’s naturally endowed right to life, liberty, or property.
It does not matter in the slightest where the aggressor falls on a political spectrum, for inalienable rights are not up for restriction by some arbitrary line on a political spectrum, or an opinion on some randomly selected issue, however relevant it may be.
It is, in actuality, quite hypocritical for either group to initiate force against the other. A simple evaluation of the groups’ alleged ideals shows this. In the case of the counter-protesters, many protesting this weekend held signs that read “Bigots: Heck Off” and “No Islamophobia.” Despite the fact that equating opposition to Sharia law to blanket Islamophobia and bigotry is fallacious at best, it reveals a massive underlying hypocrisy. Though they implicitly call for tolerance of the views of others, a sector, albeit a minority, of these individuals have decided that an arbitrary viewpoint in opposition to theirs is no longer tolerable, and must be coercively beaten to the ground.
The protesters, however, are on no moral high ground in these disputes. ACT for America, the association behind the aforementioned rallies, claims to be strongly in favor of the constitutional rights of all Americans. In fact, their website boasts about specific state legislation they have helped pass that would protect free speech in various states. Why is it, then, that these rights suddenly become null when the speech in question contradicts the values of the organization? Once again, the violent action directly opposes the alleged principles that these individuals claim to abide by.
To highlight the chronicity of such violence, it is now essential to look back at the events of what has been dubbed “The Battle of Berkeley,” in which Alt-right protesters and Anti-fa counter-protesters faced off violently for several hours in the streets of Berkeley, California. It was nothing more than several hours of unnecessary infringements upon natural rights.
I was given the privilege of exclusively interviewing Mario Diaz, a companion of Kyle Chapman, who has been named “The Alt-Knight” for his repeated clubbing of left-wing protesters at various rallies. Diaz attended the Battle of Berkeley and explained that, though he had no involvement in the throwing of explosives that others had partaken in, he personally was involved in multiple altercations, most of them being fistfights. Despite claiming that “it shouldn’t have gotten to that point,” Diaz “feels okay” about his part in the violence.
Though Diaz argued that the first explosives were thrown by Anti-fa, he was uncertain who initiated the violence in the first place. It is a trivial piece of information. It does not matter who threw the first punch, it matters who threw the second, and the third, and the fourth, and the fortieth. The answer, of course, is everyone. This was not a one-time occurrence. Chapman himself is known to have been involved in numerous other incidents, as have many key members of Anti-fa, though their identities are not easily uncovered. When one abrasive fighter exudes an air of aggression, mob mentality grips all involved, and causes a massive wave of violence to ensue, violence that is entirely inexcusable.
In a genuinely free society, one must never resort to violent acts to fight words, for that is precisely how individual liberty is extirpated. Regardless of ideology or alleged rationalization, there is no justification for the initiation of force. Gandhi is absolutely correct in saying that the world will be blind if everyone loses their eyes. However, his quote only references the reaction to violence and seems to accept the fact that some individuals will naturally display violent and coercive tendencies. This is an overly pessimistic view of the world, and rather than tolerating this violence, we must peacefully explain its futility to defeat the enemy of violence at its root cause. It is only then that the quote can be fully rendered archaic, and a new society can arise, one in which individuals can see clearly with both eyes.