Rabbi Bloom: Time to start National Nonviolence Day

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Rabbi Bloom: Time to start National Nonviolence Day

Published Saturday, January 19, 2013   |  747 Words  |  

I am going to present an idea, and you might think I am out of my mind.

Suppose we dedicate a day -- for lack of a better term -- called Nonviolence Day. It would be a day when, once a year, there are no murders, assaults, battery or any form of violent crime.

You are probably thinking that I am naive and just a dreamer. And guess what? You are correct. But think about it for a moment. We have days such as April Fool's Day when we can play tricks on people. Earth Day is about cherishing and protecting the health of the planet. Organizations and governments declare days dedicated to fighting hunger or any number of worthy causes. The United States has seven national holidays, and most of them end up being about great family meals, barbecues, setting off fireworks or vacationing.

This weekend, however, we are observing our annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.

We honor a unique and transformative modern-day prophet in American history, who fought for nonviolence as the pathway to true equality for black people and all of America. I have attended more than 30 observances for King's life and loved the music and the messages of tolerance and unity by inspiring clergy of all races and faiths.

My concern is about creating a ritual that dignifies and enshrines his life's work and does not lose the sense of mission for us to work for a just, compassionate America.

We could build incentives and rewards into the nonviolence day. States and cities that demonstrate the most significant drop in crime would receive economic rewards, as well as recognition as models for the best standard of living. The religious community would be in the forefront of this social movement that celebrates the words of the prophet Micah: "Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and man will no longer study war."

So much of what King wrote about was a plea to stop the violence. He knew when violence ends there is a chance for peace. In 1966, during a time of great civil unrest in America, King wrote, "If one is in search of a better job, it does not help to burn down the factory. If one needs more adequate education, shooting the principal will not help, or if housing is the goal only building and construction will produce that end. To destroy anything, person or property, can't bring us closer to the goal that we seek."

King spoke about those in the civil rights movement who advocated violence. He had to debate and persuade some in his ranks to resist the temptation to follow that path. He lived by those words and, tragically, died for them because it was an act of gun violence that ended his young life at 38 years old. A gun and hatred were the weapons, and they still are used today.

King was not afraid to share his dream of racial harmony, knowing full well that the road to equality was long and dangerous. There were people who scoffed at him and others who embraced his vision.

Are we not in need of a dream again? Should we not imagine a time when we can put down our weapons and suspend fear for one day? If one life was saved, wouldn't it be worth all the effort to organize a nonviolence day?

Every religion has its own Scriptures and contains statements that condemn violence. My favorite passage is from the Talmud in Judaism, which comes in the form of a story when a student asks his rabbi: "What is the central teaching of Judaism?" The rabbi answered, "Anything that is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. All the rest is commentary. Now go learn it."

Call me a dreamer. That is fine with me. I believe there are many more dreamers out there. Speak out, so these dreams will come true one day.

Columnist Rabbi Brad L. Bloom is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head Island. He can be reached at 843-689-2178. Read his blog at www.fusion613.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter, @rabbibloom.