Thursday, July 21, 2005

A non-violent response from Tom Hastings, PSU teacher

Good comments on the last post, but the discussion is not complete until one of the subjects discussed has had a chance to sound of. Tom Hastings of the "I have been arrested... many times" fame sent me an email in response:

hi Daniel,

Sounds as though you may have a few issues with me. I appreciate your contact and hope I can help you resolve some of them.

No one ever took my lunch money, either in grade school or in prison. I wasn't nonviolent as I grew up~~just a normal hockey-playing Minnesota boy who gave and took punches and other normal hits. I kind of like contact sports, actually, though I don't think much of inflicting pain.

Nonviolence is a way to get the job done. It worked for Gandhi, for King, for Chavez, for the Philippines, for the Velvet Revolution, and so forth. It seems as though one or more of these classes might benefit your perspective and I would happily share my bibliography with you if you are interested.

The violent method of responding to conflict is now absolutely discredited by the so-called War on Terror, which has created many more terrorists. I admit nonviolence is not an intuitive response, but we are decidedly hated in more and more of the world thanks to our violence.

There is another way, Daniel.

best regards,
Tom H. Hastings

While I very much appreciate his thoughtful dialogue I don't think that he addressed the main issue that I had with him. This was that he tells his students, through his bio at least, that he is proud of crimes that he has committed. And they were crimes. You don't go to prison unless you are convicted of a crime.

While I'm sure that Mr. Hastings would classify his actions as "civil disobedience" but society has laws and we don't allow citizens to rewrite them on a whim to fit there personal agendas. Our written laws are not negotiable. Advocating for "peace" or "justice" in your own way is very different than glorifying criminal acts.

As for his views on war and peace:
He lists the names of people that nonviolence "worked for."

Here is a list of names that it didn't work for:
Nick Berg
Daniel Pearl
The people working in the WTC
The people in Bali
The people on the USS Cole
The two nuns (one of whom was killed) raped by an illegal alien
Bill Clinton (Somalia, where Bin Laden learned that America was a "paper tiger")
And Jimmy Carter (unless you consider a peace prize more important than our countries honor in allowing American citizens to be taken hostage for over a year)

He also claims that the war on terror has created more terrorists. As if a 27 year old guy had no violent tendencies in him whatsoever but one day woke up and said "Damn Americans in Iraq, I think that I will strap a bomb to myself and blow up kids." This is know as a "crime of opportunity." The tendencies where there the whole time, they just needed a convenient way to accomplish them. I would rather that Iraq be more convenient than Washington DC.

And I don't care if we are "more hated in the world." I teach my kids to do what's right even when it's unpopular. If every other kid, the "cool" kids, in the class smoke pot I still don't want my kids to, even if that makes them hated, uncool, or unpopular.


Anonymous said...

Daniel -- This obsession with law breaking seems a convenient tool for you not to have to engage in the complexity of laws. Plato went on trial for these very crimes that you are charging to Mr. Hastings.

To say that "society has laws" and "our written laws are not negotiable" in the same breath betrays an ignorance (purposeful or otherwise) of the history of both laws and societies. One need look only to the distant past to find historical examples of the fact that laws are indeed negotiable. Women's sufferage and the desegregation of schools and public spaces during the last century are only two examples of laws that were reconsidered in response to civil disobedients. World history is full of such examples, including the case of those law breakers who are our founding fathers.

On his website, Mr. Hastings mentions that he, like me, is a Catholic. When one considers the stations of the Cross, it seems to me that the story of Christianity is one of civil disobedience. Considering this history, the rigidity of laws is less certain, and "society" rather more complex.

Anonymous said...

Need to correct my previous post: It was Socrates, Plato's mentor, who was charged with corrupting the youth. Nonetheless, my point has been made.


Daniel said...

Your lack of obsession with law breaking is just one step above the "it's only office paper" excuse for stealing from your company. You sound like the people who steal or "download" music without paying for it. They come up with excuses all day long about why it's justified. They, like you, just sound like little kids who don't get their way.

The law is the law. If you don't like it, then change it.

Anonymous said...

Daniel -- You didn't really respond to any of the points that I've made. I'm not sure what stealing office supplies or pirating copyrighted music has to do with civil disobedience. The objective of my post was to point out instances in history where civil disobedience precipitated results that we in the western world deem sacred--christian ethics and democracy--so as to refute your assertion that civil disobedience is categorically unethical.

Do you care to engage in anything more than personal attacks?


Anonymous said...

Golly, I'm confused with all this conversation.

There is a gang fight brewing in NE Salem right about now and I wonder who and what might I quote to the participants so as to calm their angers.

Oh, yes can you give that to me in Spanish and hurry?

Anonymous said...

London flirts with appeasement

Daniel said...

For the anonymous wanting to stop the gang fights: Yell La Migra!

For anonymous #1, #2, and #4, you keep replacing the word "crime" with the words "civil disobediance." My comparison to other lawbreakers is that they also replace the word "steal" with "download." It's just excuse making. It doesn't matter if you think it is a good cause. I don't like abortion, but that doesn't mean I can break the law to prevent it.

And I certainly don't consider opposing our country and our military to be on the same page as Rosa Parks.

Anonymous said...

Daniel -- if you refer to your opening post, you are actually the one who equated civil disobedience with crime.

I respect your right to express your anti-abortion views. If you chain yourself to the door and get arrested, that's fine with me. If you purposefully hurt other people in the process, that crosses an ethical line.

I sense a strong urge here to move away from historical points I have been trying to make, but I'll try again. Rosa Parks broke a law coded in government. Christ broke laws of the Roman Empire, laws enforced by soldiers. I don't think it's inaccurate to say that they opposed the government and military of their time, on certain terms at least.

I'm not making excuses. Obviously I respect the type of civil disobedience (or in your words "crime") that we have been talking about (or at least trying to) here. It's the stuff of which our nation is made. I was trying to have a discussion over historical events that seem to run contradictory to your logic. You seem bent on making normative judgments over when and where, historically, civil disobedience is okay. So maybe you'll speak to some of these apparent contradictions....


Sailor Republica said...

The one problem that anonymous has put into play is this: The Civil Disobedience of the Bible was done by someone who wrote the rules to begin with. He could step outside and do what needed to be done. And if it meant turning over money changing tables in the temple, then he was free to do it.

Civil Disobedience, in today's world, is different from that of the that the term has been hijacked by people who want to use it as an excuse for beating someone's brains in or to use it as a punchline.

Frankly, Non-Violence only got Gandhi and King assassinated, Chavez wasn't really non-violent (as his union workers were very "persuasive" in the ways they did things). And the only reason the Velvet Revolution actually worked was because Gorbachev decided to put in Perestroika in Russia and it spread. If it was done on their own without the help of Perestroika, it would have been bloody.

Mr. Hastings is like Jeff Luers. A criminal. Plain and simple. Spade a Spade.

Daniel said...

I can't say it better than Sailor does.

Anonymous said...

Daniel -- Maybe you couldn't have, but the fact remains that Sailor's bit of revisionist history, aside from not withstanding the historical test, does little to argue any points. He may as well have said the following:

"Acts of civil disobedience were okay in Christ's time, because he was the son of God (but aren't we to follow his example? What was that whole WWJD thing about then?), but today they are just an excuse for violent behavior. The only thing that resulted from King and Ghandi's work was their own demise. Without perestroika, the velvet revolution would have been bloody. Civil disobedience is a crime."

Sailor, dressing your arguments up in cute clothing can't hide the fact that they lack any logical continuity. What precisely are you arguing, that civil disobedience is ineffective (there's large African-American middle class in this country and about a billion people in India who would probably agree with you) or that it's a "crime"? Thus, tiringly, I'll go back in history, if you wish, to point out events in World and national history when such "crimes" led to things free people now cherish as values.

Again, neither I nor Mr. Hastings ever equated civil disobedience with "beating someone's brain in"; you did.

Your disdain for people who engage in acts of civil disobedience is clear; it's not what's being debated here.

Spade a Spade.

Sailor Republica said...

My arguments are what they are, and my points are still true. Without Perestroika, the Velvet Revolution would have been the Bloody Revolution. It doesn't take a genius to see this.

And yes, I do believe that civil disobedience in this modern time is being abused, and in it's abuse is becoming the norm.

I cite groups such as Earth First, ALF, ELF, ad naus. as the normal example of those that claim to be "civilly disobedient", but in reality are criminals.

Here's my Ace of Spades, now shove it.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Sailor. What's your point about the Velvet Revolution, anyway? If there had been blood, it would have been on the hands of the Kremlin. The revolution itself was peaceful. Did you just recently read about Perestroika in history class and enjoy using the word? I'm no genius, but I have a hard time seeing how it refutes my point, which is that civil disobedience has virtuous uses and can bring about great things, as shown many times throughout history.

Christ taught us to follow his example, and his life on earth is as good an example of civil disobedience as any in history. It got him killed too.

That some today call their protests civil and then cross the line doesn't refute my point. In their time, people called all of the great civil disobedients "criminals" as well. I'm not talking about throwing rocks through windows or setting SUVs on fire. Just because there are some idiots who call these crimes acts of civil disobedience, doesn't mean that others, Mr. Hastings perhaps, aren't engaged in something morally commendable, even if it gets them arrested, and even if you disagree with it in principle. Rather than talking about war protest, how about a Christian judge who refuses to take the ten commandments out of his courtroom, and gets arrested for it? Do you dismiss him as a mere criminal?

I'm losing interest in responding to what is a charade of an argument on your part. I think you have in mind already the conclusion at which you want to arrive -- categorically rejecting civil disobedience -- and the arguments along the way are, for you, minor details. Don't they require students to take courses in logic down there at the U of O?

Sailor Republica said...

Your interest in this whole thing is not only trivial to me, Anon #13, but it is categorically irrelevant, spurious, and contemptable.

My point is, specifically, that civil disobedience as is termed in today's society, is not civil at all.

This is the point YOU do not get. Those that keep calling for civil disobedience (and end up having violence and breaking laws) have abused the system. Critical Mass is a perfect example of this. It is the norm. YOU are not willing to get this through the non-existant skull of yours.

And yes, it does refute your point because of your refusal to acknowledge that civil disobedience is much more different today than in the days of Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Frankly stating, I think you have come to the conclusion that everyone that disagrees with you about this must be anti-civil disobedience. I'm not necessarily so, but your projection makes it seem so.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go teach the logics class here. They need wisdom and knowledge from someone who is not an intellectual moron with the IQ of broccoli.

Daniel said...


Please cite some recent examples of worthy civil disobediance that has brought about change. Recent examples.

Do the anarchists who march with bandanas over their faces accomplish anything?

Has Portland Peaceful Response succeeded in getting America to give up in Iraq?

I can't think of a good recent example.

Anonymous said...

Define "recent". If you mean in the span of your lifetime, then you are looking at history from too close of a perspective. Northwest US is prone to earthquakes, but I don't remember any...I guess it's a lie.

Apologies if that sounds caustic, but coming from a neutral perspective, I don't think either "Daniel" or "sailor republica" is doing a good job at presenting his/her point.

Your personal opinions seem to be stated as fact. If they are truly valid, then perhaps you could state them backed up with facts. In addition- IQ of a broccoli? I do not see how that is possibly related.

Back to the question of "recent" successful civil disobedience... It is too early to tell whether Portland Peaceful Response will bring troops home from Iraq. It's like you expect to get elected before people vote.

Perhaps emotions are too involved here for useful discussion, or maybe I, too, am to be considered an "intellectual moron with the IQ of a broccoli".