A Message from Andrius Kulikauskas
I don't like to get distracted by world events, but they're now large enough that I feel a duty to respond.
I lived by choice for several years in a neighborhood of Chicago oppressed by intimidating gangs and individuals. I knew that the police could not make the world right. I would not excuse myself from responding to wrong.
So I trained myself to confront wrong. I took up the challenge to respond, at least in some small way, to every wrong I saw, from a child dropping a candy wrapper, to a gang pounding on a victim.
I came across a mean and threatening person about once a week for four years. Often I simply practiced, I would stop to engage youths staking out street corners. I started out small, talking to one or two youths, but built up to mobs lead by people who poke their finger in your chest, or who watch a dog crush a cat to death in its jaws, or flash a knife at you in anger, or simply threaten to rape and kill you.
What I learned (along with my good friend Joe Damal) is completely counter to everything I am ever told. So I share this with the firm belief that this would work just as well with global conflicts.
The only thing you really need to know is "Always look at everything from their point of view". Then you can be hyperflexible, respond in the ways that any good person would, and ready for the good to come from any direction. And you will get hurt just a very little bit.
A vile man may curse me, but how can he hurt if I engross myself in his point of view, and forget myself? I curse along with him that one who causes him so much anguish, grief, frustration, pain.
A deranged addict can accost me, but thinks most clearly when I show that I do truly wish that he satisfy his need, but even better his needs everlasting, first of all his dignity.
A sadist may seize me, as an object of his power, but turns refined and fascinated if I accept him as the master of a game that we will play.
But as soon as I focus on myself, my own image cursed, my own mind invalidated, my own power lost, then my screams will bring vicious hands upon my every weakness.
"Always look at everything from their point of view". I may apply my own mind, but only to their situation. We may disagree on everything, but never the fact that I am one with them, completely devoted, not I but he, not I but she.
That's all that truly matters, but Joe and I found seven principles that make it practical. The purpose is for their sake, to let them be in control, let them exercise their free will.
1) "Be straightforward." Make yourself plain as day. Let them size you up. Let them know who you are, where you live. Reveal your motives. If you're going to call the police, do your best to let them know. America should have no CIA, no Homeland Security, no Armed Forces unless they can work publicly. Otherwise its opponents are forced to suspect America.
2) "Be thorough." Don't skip steps. Don't call the police until you've taken some response yourself, even if it just means peeking out the window. When you're frightened, confront. You can retreat when you have something to be sad about. So take small steps, so that your hurt will be small. And when you do feel hurt, then go back quickly for help, don't persist yourself. America should take every single step it can, exercise every single option available, involve every possible party. Never strike first. Let the sadist have a game to play.
3) "Be vulnerable." A gang can never take you seriously if you need the force of the police, or a large group, to engage them. Go so that they can hurt you, and they will know that you are for real. They will know that they are truly responsible for everything they do to you. America should be lead by those who are prepared to be assassinated, and there should be many replacements. America should have at the head of its armed forces a Peacemaker Corps of nonviolent volunteers who are willing to risk death and injury as tripwires for its global concerns.
4) "Let them win." You can hang with a gang on a street corner, and walk circles around their head, and plant seeds in their mind all day long. But you can't get them to leave that corner when you want them to. So let them win, have the last word, get their way. They will leave that corner five minutes after they have seen you gone. America should welcome anti-American governments in other countries. If those governments have only that to stand on, they will collapse when they can find nobody to fight, and make room for those with integrity. America should deal with all who win power.
5) "Seek clarification when confused." Let them teach you. Hear them out. Listen with an open heart, take their lies at face value for their sake, play along to see where you may lead them. You will learn all of their thinking, but even better, you may also change your own mind, and find new truth. America should take Osama bin Laden at face value. Isn't he mad that America's troops are in Saudi Arabia and Israel? America's government should take up the questions, why are its troops there? Why is Saudi Arabia a monarchy? Why is Israel an ally? The best way to find Osama bin Laden is to ask for his opinion. The best way to have a sound foreign policy is to keep it open to question. The best way to have friends with integrity is to teach them to question themselves.
6) "Stick to your principles." What would you lay down your life for? What is it going to come down to, when they talk of killing you? What is the road on which they may walk with you to the end? At that point, if they're standing on that corner to sell drugs, let them be. But if they're going to intimidate an old lady, so she can't even walk down the street, then I'm ready for the end. I know my principles, so they can know them, too. And they will give me way. America should know the price of Chicago. What values are worth more than a weapon of mass destruction can imperil? Is it freedom from fear? Is it knowing that we don't strike the first blow? Or the second blow? Is it showing good will?
7) "Have something to share." Add to their fun. If they've opened the hydrant, go out in your trunks. Let them lift you up and get you wet. Let them smile and laugh before you explain why it's against the law. When they stand on the corner, let them know that neighbors may think they are selling drugs, and may call the police. Do it as a favor. America should have values, and share values, that make it worthy to be the mightiest superpower, regardless of whether it is. America should conduct itself as the country that responds, to the extent it can, to absolutely every voice around the world. Every person in the world should visit America and be free to live there. America should encourage immigration so that if America is not the world, then at least the world is within America. It is vitally important to encourage immigration from countries in conflict with America, so that immigrants can help shape American policy.
These are all practical ways of "always looking at everything from their point of view". They are wonderful to practice. We can start by being just a little bit vulnerable, straightforward, thorough, conciliatory, interested, principled, giving. America can start small. Deal with the South Side of Chicago, where people do talk of civil war. Send unarmed soldiers to practice nonviolent engagement. Practice on Cuba, Turkey, Singapore. Work your way up to China.
I know that America has a troubled past, notably slavery, the crushing of natives, the invasion of Mexico, the regime making by the CIA. Yet all these wrongs recede away from the everlasting principles to which Americans commit their country to. Around the world, these principles bring hope for the future, for Americans hold them true not only for themselves, but also for others.
But now I hear from the President that it is most important for America to enforce its values around the world, which of course, means that it is less important to worry what those values are. In other words, others should worry about their values in a way that America need not. This is the ugliness of the British Empire, or the Roman Empire, or any empire, where insiders practice on themselves very different values than they do on others.
A bystander who cares must wonder, if America can allow itself such an unremarkable President, receptive Congress, and acquiescent people, then they must be quite out of touch with those values that make America everlasting. If America succeeds here, then it will not be for having risen to any challenge. America will simply confirm itself on a path towards that violence that will ultimately dissolve it.
Many burn for the 3,000 who perished, but few love God for the 47,000 he saved, or write their names on monuments, even though they all know who they are. Christ spoke of eighteen people killed when a building collapsed: they are no different then you, but if you don't repent, you will suffer the same fate! I suppose they are a sign to us, and if we don't repent, we will be a sign to others. Samson brought down the temple of the Philistines in his suicide. God ordered the genocides in Canaan, and condemned Saul for falling short. Of course, he wiped out the face of the earth in the flood, all save Noah's ark. These are the everlasting values. Who understands them? Who can afford not to worry about them?
Always show good will. Give slack in every direction, ever just a bit. Do what any good person would do, don't focus on what makes you special, let that be. Love your neighbor as yourself. Christ says I follow him to the extent that I love my enemy, for who does not love friends? Look for enemies! Take up the other's point of view. Lose yourself in it, then you are gone, and the Christ lives in you, ready to respond in any direction.
America is a keeper of everlasting values. But be alert, stay awake! You may lose the torch as did the British, and the Romans, and the Greeks. The values are eternal, God finds new keepers, even after long dark ages. If America takes its values for granted, then it will be dismissed. If America sticks to her principles, lays down her life for them, then her name will forever adorn them, long after she is gone, and all of us.
Christ said: I lay down my life, and I pick it up again.
I hereby share my wish for peace, and against war. I prefer an awful death to striking the first blow.
I don't worry about the grand politics, or much about America, for I know that country which I keep in my heart. But I encourage us to channel all of our nervous energy on the small practices that leap out from friend to foe, and span our everlasting world.
Thank you for inspiring my action!
Public Domain 2002