Why NonViolence and risk arrest?

John Murtari (a copy of a letter sent to the local newspaper – but never published)


This is my 14th day in jail as part of my protest.  I thought I might write you about the goals of the protest — but there would be more good in discussing the method, non violent civil disobedience.

Last week some elementary school kids were getting a tour of the jail, including cell blocks which had inmates.  Some of the kids would actually peak in to see the “criminals.”  At dinner that night I was talking to one of the guys about it.  He told me he was afraid one of his little girls might see him.  They went to that school.

When I got back to my cell I thought, “What about my son Domenic. Suppose he came through and saw me in jail as part of this protest. What would he say?”  Editors, what should a child say whose parents are arrested as part of civil disobedience?

Another common refrain I heard from police officers, lawyers, and judges is that protesting, by staying in jail, is a waste of time and the taxpayers money. As Judge Pirano from Salina told me before I was temporarily released Feb 24th, “Mr. Murtari, I don’t deny you your right to protest. But I am not going to let you do it at the taxpayers expense.”  Editors, is this type of protest a burden on society?

I am old enough to remember the many protests of the 60s.  There were violent and non violent protests.  Attempts by people to correct wrongs in society that were not being effectively addressed by the legislative and legal system then in place.

As an adult I have studied the lives of both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  They were both men of very strong faith. The movements they led were different from those of confrontation and intimidation.  Different from those which used violence and the ends were a justification of the means.  Gandhi and King showed respect toward their oppressors.  They believed in the goodness of people, even those who were hurting them.  Gandhi once remarked, “How can you expect to convert someone to your opinion by making them an object of ridicule and contempt?”

Their followers allowed themselves to be beaten and even killed without offering resistance. In doing so, the vast majority of their oppressors (who were indeed all good hearted people) were converted by the experience.

As we come to the end of this century many seem to have forgotten these tremendous examples and resort to name calling, confrontation, and violence.  Where is the faith of the anti abortion protester who chooses to kill another? If someone should have to make the supreme sacrifice in pursuit of good — it should be the protester themself.  Or have we forgotten the lesson of Christ.

Getting back to the original questions. I would now like to propose my answers:

Perhaps what Judge Pirano should have said to the other people of Salina packed into his courtroom is this, “See this man who is unhappy because he can’t see his son after a divorce. Well . . . he is going to jail.  Not because he hurt anyone. Not because he kidnapped his child.  Not because he mouthed off to a Judge. . . . He’s going because he wants to.  He is trying to make us see the systems needs to be better . . .  So folks, I’m going to leave him in jail at your expense.  Tell all your friends to peacefully protest. I’d rather sentence a hundred of them, than ONE case of violence where a life was destroyed. It’s a bargain!”

And of course I hope my son Domenic would say to his friends, “That my Dad in jail.  He wanted to be able to see me more. He’s never hurt anyone.   He just wants everyone to know how very much he loves me. He’s trying to help all of us … and I love him for it.”

. . .

I hope your attention to this will encourage more non violent copy cats — and perhaps make nonviolence “trendy” again. The whole community would benefit from that.