A hyphen can make all the difference. It was a dynamic beginning, and immediately thought provoking as we set out the gate at the beginning of the session with Kazu. “Non-violence means ‘not violent,’ but does not being violent really mean you’re not being violent?” The answer is no. Non-violence is often times just as violent as the act of violence. Non-violence is being a bystander. Non-violence is watching someone beaten and not doing anything about it. Non-violence is ignoring the pain and suffering that surrounds you. Non-violence is about perpetuating violence through the lack of action. Being non-violent is one of my largest fears. I wish to practice NONVIOLENCE (without the hyphen) every day. Nonviolence is oftentimes speaking up and causing a scene. Nonviolence is merging yourself between the abuser and the abused. Nonviolence is taking notice of violence and doing something about it.
Mesa Grande Academy practiced non-violence. As I grew up in my Adventist K-12 school, I watched classmates and peers act violent towards each other. Whether the boys were calling a girl a slut because she slept with one of his friends, or if it was the girls attacking another girl for drinking alcohol, violence was rampant towards those who were not “perfect” Adventists, also known as “BADventists.” Although many of these acts were done openly on our very small campus, these violent boys and girls never got in trouble. They were never called in to talk to the principal nor were they scolded in class. I witnessed teachers ignore the attacked individuals by ignoring what was happening. Why were they acting “non-violent” towards these students? I can only imagine it’s because they agreed, and they left the violent youth to their own devices. A religion and a school that were supposed to practice love and acceptance perpetuated non-violence on the daily.
I recognized this early on in my high school career. As some of my friends were often the ones that were targeted, I knew what was happening in their lives. I knew that my friend that was having sex had been abused early on in life. I knew that my other friend was drinking alcohol every night on her own because her parents were constantly gone traveling and getting drunk brought comfort during her lonely nights. I absolutely detested that my good-hearted friends that needed the most love and acceptance were being pushed away from our church and school. No one reached out to question their actions or asked how they could help. These individuals were ruthlessly judged. I vowed to myself in high school that I wouldn’t judge people’s behaviors just because I didn’t agree with the behavior. Instead, I would want to question, “Why? Why are they doing what they do?” I didn’t know it then, but I vowed to engage in nonviolence. Instead of ignoring the problem, I would reach out. I would talk about it. I would question it. I decided at this time that I would much rather be a nonviolent Badventist than a non-violent Adventist.