Return To Episode Page Return to Peace Talks Radio Home Page

Peace Talks Radio Host Carol Boss talks with Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech University and working with the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence.

Boss: So the debate over violence and mass shootings gets people talking about mental health issues, about broader ideas, about a culture of violence, violence in media. Why gun laws to work on rather than some of these other possible topics of conversation?

 Good question. Basically it comes down to this; after mass shooting events and after any sort of major mass trauma, mass violence incident, the first question is: “Why did this happen?” Why did somebody choose to do this?” “Why could someone act this way?”

In the case of Virginia Tech, the person who can answer that question killed himself in the front of my classroom. There is no solid answer to the “why” question, so what became more answerable to me is “how.” How did this happen? How did this person actually physically carry out these acts? What did they have with them? What allowed them to do this? It was pursuing the “how,” but at the same time always curious of the “why.” The “why” is, in my opinion, a much more broad area, particularly with gun violence. It can range from mental health issues to bullying to an accident of children playing together thinking a gun was a toy to depression, impulse suicide, things like that.

The “how” is always the same. The “how” is this metal object in their hands that fires a bullet with the twitch of a finger. The fact that background checks aren’t done minimally across gun sales in this country was just something so fundamentally wrong and unjust in my opinion that I wanted to address it.

We need to have a conversation in this country badly about what is responsible gun ownership. Not only when you own the gun and it’s yours keeping it safe locked at home away from children and those that might have problems.

But then when you sell the gun to someone, make sure that the person who is buying it from you can at least legally do so. That’s it and the quickest way to do that is with like a 90 second background check.

I have so many people come to the events where we show this film and think that this is some anti-gun, no one should have a gun in America kind of thing and they come up to me afterwards and say, “This is not what I thought this was going to be. I own guns. I was in the military. I hunt regularly. What are you talking about man, background checks? That’s cool with me. It’s not going to stop me from owning a gun, but if it’s going to stop some person with a felony record, I’m all for it.”

Boss: What’s your response to the argument to arm teachers or to have more police in schools and public spaces or that people believe concealed weapons should be allowed on college campuses.

 Fundamentally, I don’t think we’re going to shoot our way out of our problem with shootings in this country. This idea that, if only we allowed more people to carry more guns in more public places in this country then we would all be in a safer place, if that idea was true then would the country that already allows people to carry guns on the streets, in their homes, practically everywhere in the country, a country with 300 million guns in circulation already. In theory, wouldn’t we already be the safest place in the world? If you look at the numbers, we are in fact just opposite of that.

You have to take public health approach and understand that any object that harms or kills another human being by its function, increasing your exposure to that object does not decrease the likelihood of injury or death. It increases the likelihood of injury or death. People should have that right. People should be allowed to purchase a firearm for their home if they’d like to. I support that idea. I support that concept. I support the Second Amendment. You have that right, but sometimes it might not be the best option when you have young children.

Peace Talks Radio Host Carol Boss talks with Annette Nance-Holt, whose 16 year old son Blair was
murdered on a Chicago bus in 2007. A gang member fired into back of the bus missing
his target, a rival gang member, but killing Blair and wounding 4 others.

Boss: Annette Nance-Holt, did you go to support groups?

 Actually, when this first happened to me, the fire department recommended that I go to a counselor. So I went to this counselor about three times in a row and all I could do was cry the whole time until one time she asked me, “What do you love doing?” I was like, “I loved my son. I loved doing everything I possible could to make sure he was successful.” She said, “What activities were you doing before this?” I said, “I was learning to play golf.” She said, “Well, you should play golf.” That was it for me that day. I could not talk to somebody who told me that golf would solve my problem because golf ain’t solved my problem yet.

So I ended up going to a group called Parents of Murdered Children that’s headed by parents who have lost their children to violence. There I found other people like me and they could understand what I was going through and not thinking the answer is you might need medicine or you might need to keep coming to this therapist or do some kind of fun thing like golf. That wasn’t the answer. I needed someone to tell me that what I was feeling was okay and that the chest pains and the anxiety were all because of losing my child. I have no medical history like that.

I worried about forgetting things. Someone said, “We forget a lot because we’ve been traumatized and people don’t look at gun violence survivors as being traumatized. We talk about veterans being traumatized. We’re traumatized here in the City of Chicago. Imagine all the young people who are going to be traumatized from what they witness.”

We started a group called: “Purpose over Pain” where a group of parents got together and formed an organization of our own. We actually do outreach to parents who have lost their children to violence whether that be providing money for funerals or passes or whatever services they need; cemeteries they can afford if they want to cremate, buying flowers and just talking to them and saying, “Hey, you can call us anytime you need,” and eventually get them into the group of Parents of Murdered Children.

The other two things we do is Common Sense Gun Legislation. We’ve been to D.C., we’ve been to Springfield and Chicago and even New York with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence. We’ve been everywhere talking about gun violence and how we can change it so that innocent people don’t die every day because guns are in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

The third thing that we do is actually go out to community groups. We go out to high schools and grammar schools and even parent groups and talk about what the long-lasting effects of gun violence does to families and communities.

Boss: Annette, what do you say to a mother who is going through what you went through; the murder of your child?

 Really I can tell them I’m sorry because they became part of a sorority they didn’t sign up to join. I just want to say, “I’m sorry” because we failed them. If we keep getting more children murdered behind ours, we’ve failed. We’ve failed as people, as a society, as the United States of America. We have failed. We’ve failed to provide the most common right that we should offer people; the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We haven’t offered that.

Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles talks with Antoinette Tuff, a school worker who talked a would be school shooter into giving himself up to police in August, 2014 near Atlanta, Georgia.

Ingles: You just kept saying it would be alright. You didn’t tell him to lay on the floor. There was some turning point where he decided that he was going to give himself up. Can you remember that transformation in a detailed way?

Tuff: No, I don’t remember. I didn’t tell him to lie down or anything like that. He just really went over there and lay down. I didn’t know he was going to lie down. That was just something that he started doing. I was just sitting there praying the whole time. I don’t remember what words I said to him. I was sitting in the chair so I wasn’t moving. I don’t know what it was that I said that actually resonated with him for him to just give himself up. I don’t know what that was. I just saw him start putting the things on the counter beside me.

Ingles: Can you remember what you were feeling or even in retrospect how it felt to feel like something had changed and that this might not end up as a tragic story?

Tuff: A part of me hoped that I would get out, but another part of me, when you’re seeing someone unstable (he had already told me had hadn’t taken his medicine) I knew what kind of state he was in. I was sitting there watching him unfold himself and so I didn’t know if I was going to get out. I hoped that I was going to get out, but I hoped that I was going to get out. I didn’t know how the story was actually going to end and then in the midst of it, you don’t even look at how the story is going to end. The only thing for me that I was focusing on was that at the end of the day, all of us, including him would be able to go home to our families.

Ingles: I can tell your Christian faith is very strong and I wonder though as you go around the world, I’m thinking that you probably still do want to reach people of other faiths. How do you reach across the many different faiths as you tell this story and as you encourage people to realize their potential and their options?

Tuff: Well we all have different levels of what we look at in our different beliefs, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, we all still have the same thing in mind; to make sure that we do the right thing at the right time. It doesn’t make any difference who you are and what you do, but that you go reach forth to know that there is a higher power that’s greater than you are and that’s the whole story. It doesn’t make a difference who you are and what you serve, at the end of the day, who gets the glory?

Peace Talks Radio host Suzanne Kryder talks with Albuquerque, NM based therapist Robert (Bob) Thomson

SK: In terms of political stress, we’re seeing a continuum of people and some people do not want to even interact much less talk with people who are on the opposite end of their belief system. What is your recommendation? Should we be talking to each other or not?

BT: Well, of course we should be talking with each other. In the absence of talk, we have, often times, aggressive action and that’s not one of the things that I think is useful to any of us. If we’re going to resolve differences of opinions or different believe systems, we have to talk about it. We have to come to understand. 

I always think of Gandhi when the civil war was going on and he was starving himself as a protest and the two leaders of the factions came to him and said, “You have to start eating.” He said, “Well, I will as soon as the civil war stops.” One of the men said, “There is no way out for me because I’ve done horrible things. I’ve killed women and children and babies.” Gandhi said, “There is a way for you.” The guy looked at him like he was out of his mind. He’s been starving, so clearly, he must be out of his mind. [Gandhi] said, “There are thousands of orphans out there now because of this war. You have to go and get a child who is an orphan, but it has to be a child from the other side and you have to bring them into your home and raise them with that religion that you’re fighting about, their religion.” That teaches understanding in a profound way. 

I think that’s what we have to do in the world when we have all these people with different ideas. If we’re not communicating and really understanding each other because we can’t listen to each other, then trouble happens.

SK: Bob, you mentioned non-violence and Gandhi, isn’t that a political view?

BT: That’s a human view. Was he operating in the midst of political issues? Of course, but he was talking about really people understanding people. I think it was a much deeper way of understanding what’s happening and some possible ways to manage it. He is suggesting that if you are really in disagreement with somebody to the point where you would be willing to do violence, it probably would make sense to really come to understand that way much better than you do because you probably don’t.

SK: Bob, what if you want to engage, say go to lunch or talk to a person who is on the political spectrum opposite of you?

BT: I think we engage with people who have very different ideas than us all the time because each one of us is so unique. 

My own sense about what helps communication go better when people have very different views is to be able to articulate clearly what the other person’s view is to the point where they are saying, “You really do understand where I’m coming from and why I’m coming from there.” That tends to have defenses going down, the person doesn’t feel like they have to turn the volume up and scream louder because I didn’t hear them because they know I did hear them because I’ve just articulated exactly their position to the point where they’re shaking their head that that’s exactly right. 

Then we’re in a position to talk about what it’s like from our point of view and if, and it usually does, it starts to stir them up because it’s so different than their own, we can say, “Did I understand you?” and they will probably say, “yes.” We can say, “Try to afford the opportunity of understanding me too.” It helps.

Peace Talks Radio Host Paul Ingles talks with Greg Saville, criminologist, police trainer, 
former police officer and author of “You In Blue”

Saville: The more the police and community know each other by personal name and work together directly on minor problems and solving problems together, the more they do that, the better the relations are going to be. That’s the first place I would go.

The second place I’d go is we need to seriously retool and rethink the training systems for police. The training regimes are obsolete, out of date and I think they lead to many of the problems.

We have just written a book about this whole problem called You in Blue and I think that’s where we need to go.

Ingles: Well, tell me more about that then. Tell me more about where the training needs to go where maybe it hasn’t been going in recent years.

Saville: Well, the interesting thing is that police are very quick to adopt new technologies, new military strategies and military equipment, but they’re very resistant to adopting new training methods, new ways to educate and help learners learn. So our approach is to say, look at the training methodologies, look at the way training is done and you discover a rigid, militaristic power point-driven sage on the stage style of learning sprinkled with war stories and sprinkled with some scenarios that it obsolete and far out of date and leads to more problems than it’s worth.

Modern education has gone leaps and bounds beyond that. We need to update and seriously upgrade the way police training is done; with modern, collaborative, community-based educational methods. What we do is we create a program called problem-based learning and we’ve been through the Department of Justice for the last seven years and gradually helping police training programs and police academies to update and upgrade their methods. That’s where we need to go.

Ingles: I was always intrigued in reading some of your materials online about an emphasis on what many of us know and our listeners know if they’ve heard our programs before on emotional intelligence.

Saville: Well, we introduced emotional intelligence about 12 years ago and through the work we’ve done in emotional intelligence training, it has utterly revolutionized the way we approach learning and teaching.

How this works is if a police officer is in an emergency situation and they’re responding to a crisis, say a police chase where there is a high-speed pursuit and there is a lot of adrenaline, what happens chemically is there is a fight and flight response and adrenaline fires inside the officer’s brain and you get very anxious, very nervous and what happens is that a lot of the access that you have to the normal conflict resolution and problem solving strategies is minimized because you’re focused on simply driving the car, getting to the scene and so forth. Those are the kinds of things that lead to trouble later on because you’re still driven by the emotions of the event and no surprise when you look on these candid television images of the use of force or happenings at these peak moments. 

What emotional intelligence does is it police officers how to learn how to control their state of mind in these emergency situations and on everyday situations by teaching them how to focus on self-awareness, how to calm themselves, how to use breathing methods and all of those kinds of things that are traditionally thought of as soft skills are often defamed or downplayed in academy training versus the hard skills which are the tactical training and shooting and those types of things. The truth of the matter is that the majority of situations are driven by soft skills. They’re driven by the interaction before, the state of mind of the officer before. Emotional intelligence finally addresses that in training.

Peace Talks Radio Host Paul Ingles talks with Dr. Vincent Harding, MLK friend and scholar, about King’s “Selma to Montgomery” Speech of March 25, 1964.

Harding: Dr. King is coming at this moment in March, 1965 to the end of one of the great occasions in the movement, in his leadership, in his companionship, especially with the people of the South who had been working so hard around this issue of the right to vote and had drawn thousands of people from other parts of the country to be with them in this great pilgrimage from Selma to Montgomery. To get to Montgomery alive was itself a great victory.

Ingles: Dr. Harding, talk with me for a moment about this section in this speech where Dr. King confronts the concept of normalcy.

Harding: He is saying in a deep way to Alabama, as one example, that what you have experienced in the past must not be allowed to be your judgment of what is good and what is necessary and what is needed for your life. You must now begin to envision a new society, as he put it, a “new normalcy” which brings us together; black and white into a new Alabama. In a sense, he was saying the same thing to the country; do not accept segregation either by lore or by practice as an acceptable way of life. In a sense he was saying we can do much better than that and if you allow yourself to move in that direction, you will see how beautiful we can possibly be.

Ingles: Just as he was boldly asking his audience to confront their fears, it seems that he tackles maybe the next most comment objection in social movements, that change takes too long. How long? Not long he says again and again toward the end of this speech. In his private moments, was there a sense that things in 1965 were starting to move faster than they ever had and that he could really himself believe in the “not long” of his own speech?

Harding: I am not sure about what he was thinking concerning the movement at that time. By 1965, many of the young people of the black community, especially in the North, there was evidence that they were growing impatient, that they were growing more angry and that they were feeling a need which is, as you know, so terribly American, to get everything down now. Speaking about the various tasks that had to be done, Martin knew that those things could not be done overnight, could not be done “now.” What he knew was they had to begin now. People had to commit themselves to do the work now, but he did not want people to feel that “never” was the answer either. So he kept calling; “Not long.”

Peace Talks Radio Host Paul Ingles talks with radio documentarian Joe Richman
about his series Mandela: An Audio History.

Ingles: Joe, when you talk to so many people about another person, inevitably a few things are heard consistently. What would you say most all of your interview subjects agreed upon in their assessment or characterization of Nelson Mandela?

 What so many of them would say about Mandela, and it’s been said so often that it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s a cliché that I think is true, is that what he gave to that moment, to the country and to that moment in history was getting out of prison and not feeling bitter, not feeling angry, but being able to go to the negotiating table to be able to look forward.

People may disagree about the pros and cons of how that country emerged from that moment, but the fact that it emerged basically, essentially bloodless and was able to make that transition to democracy was something that no one really expected.

The tone was set by Mandela’s feeling of you don’t look back in bitterness, you look forward and try to make something better.

Ingles: What was the most unexpected thing you heard about him that maybe isn’t part of what you have learned to expect to hear about Nelson Mandela?

 We think now of Mandela as this kind of wonderful grandfather, smiling figure and just this loveable old man. If you go back in history, you’re reminded that he was considered a terrorist and by many definitions, he was a terrorist in the sense that he led the movement away from non-violence to start a bombing campaign and to arm the struggle. It’s really hard to separate any moment in history from the context in which it happens, but it’s also important to go back and remember that Mandela was considered a terrorist and he in fact was leading the Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed struggle of the movement. History is never as black and white and as easy as we like to think.

I think that there is the moment where the ANC sat down with the National Party and Pik Botha who was one of the ministers of the National Party, the white-ruling party, and talked about Mandela giving this whole history of the Afrikaner people. That’s how he started, basically saying I understand your history, I understand your issues and I understand where you’re coming from. That obviously made a huge impact on him because, as he said, here I am about to sit down at the negotiating table with someone I’ve spent two decades thinking of as a terrorist and he had studied me, my own grievances and my own history.

I think there’s just something incredibly powerful about understanding your enemy, both tactically and strategically, but much more than that, understanding the other side because nothing is ever simple and black and white and you see the cracks in everyone’s stories and everyone’s history.

An excerpt of Zak Rosen's Report on Peace Pilgrim

When Peace Pilgrim started out, the Korean War was still under way, and an ominous threat of a nuclear attack was on the minds of many Americans. And so, with "Peace Pilgrim" written across her chest, she began walking "coast to coast for peace."
For 28 years — the time she spent on her journey — she never used money. She gave new meaning to the word minimalist, wearing the same clothes every day: blue pants and a blue tunic that held everything she owned: a pen, a comb, a toothbrush and a map. That's it.

"I own only what I wear and carry. I just walk until given shelter, fast until given food," she said at the time. "I don't even ask; it's given without asking. I tell you, people are good. There's a spark of good in everybody."

Mildred Norman at 16, when, as her sister says, "she had to have the latest clothing." When she devoted herself to walking for peace, she took on a completely different kind of life.

In July 1981, the day before she died, Peace Pilgrim was interviewed by Ted Hayes, the manager of a small radio station in Knox, Ind.

"Peace Pilgrim, you know, there are a certain number of people who would probably think of somebody like yourself as a kook or a nut," Hayes said. "Do you have a problem overcoming this barrier with some people?"
"Well, I'm quite sure that some of those who have just heard of me must think I'm completely off the beam," Peace Pilgrim responded. "After all, I am doing something different. And pioneers have always been looked upon as being a bit strange.
"But, you see, I love people and I see the good in them," she continued. "And you're apt to reach what you see. The world is like a mirror: If you smile at it, it smiles at you. I love to smile, and so in general, I definitely receive smiles in return."

Peace Talks Radio Host Paul Ingles talked with Rev. Alvin Herring, Director of
Racial Equity and Community Engagement, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

PI: Well, I watched one of your talks, obviously in front of a room full of people at a conference. You invited them to ask themselves; “Where did you grow up? Did the people in your neighborhood look like you? Did the people in your school mostly look like you?” Just about every hand went up. Then when you said, “What about the grocery store you most often go to; do the people mostly look like you?” These are conscious choices that maybe are feeding into an unconscious space, but we don’t think about them that much. That one caught my attention, the grocery store one.

AH: Maybe another way of approaching it is that these are unconscious biases that feed into and are the building blocks of conscious choices. I think that’s really what we’re trying to isolate here; that you can form an association. For example biases are really often formed through association, something that you witness, but even more importantly, something you’ve been told, taught or heard and you link the two things together. For example; “These people are dangerous,” “These people are irresponsible,” “These people are lazy,” “These people will cheat you.” Certainly, very few people would say out loud and consciously; “I believe this entirely,” but you can still hold that bias and make choices in your life and upon reflection, you can see that those choices are really in part or in total inspired by those biases. 

That’s why we end up living in segregated neighborhoods. In this country, many of the largest cities are segregated or more segregated than this country was in the 1950s. Public schools across the country have never lived up to Brown (vs. The Board of Education). We have never desegregated our schools. Our children still don’t have an equal shot of sitting next to each other in the classroom and sharing that experience together. 

Certainly, if you look at the laws on the books and the statutes and the Constitutional protections and the vigorous enforcement, all of that is there. If you ask the average American what they are feeling about segregation and education and housing, for the most part, poll after poll shows that our conscious and explicit orientations are bad and yet, we make choices to live in neighborhoods where people look just like us, shop in grocery stores, parks, worship, you name it, our lives are lived to a large extent in this country parallel to one another with very few areas of intersection. That scenario, that condition is created by our inability to really take on consciously what we hold dear unconsciously.

A lot of the organizing work, and for that matter, a lot of the work of faith and a lot of the work of this foundation is to move us into a conscious dialogue where there can be clarity, accountability, we can heal and we can really reach for something better with real intention.

PI: You invite people in these talks to challenge that old saying, “I have lots of (fill in the blank); black friends, Hispanic friends, Native American friends.” Say more about that challenge.

AH: I think one of the ways in which we let ourselves off the hook is when we are made to confront our biases; (saying)“We have [fill in the blank] black friends, Jewish friends, Muslim friends, white friends, Latino friends, Asian friends” as though that then excuses us from ever holding - either consciously or unconsciously - attitudes, biases, prejudice’s and perceptions that ultimately support and become the fuel of the systems that really deprive us all of equal access to equitable opportunities and equitable treatment and that’s never sufficient. It’s never sufficient. 

One friend or five friends certainly don’t represent a whole group and just because you have some associations, which is great, doesn’t mean you’ve done the other work of walking inside the experience of your friends, really seeing them and seeing what they’re up against and understanding what that means for you. 

It’s one thing to say, “I have black friends.” It’s another thing to say, “I understand through my close associations better what that experience is like.” But then there is another thing to say; “I have really walked inside that space intentionally with my friend and I’ve come out on the other side as an ally, as a person committed and willing to work, not just for what’s good for me and my family, but what’s good for them and their family. 

That’s the hard work and we won’t get to it as long as the only or the most frequently suggested activity towards racial comity or racial healing is that I have friends.

PI: It’s a step, but if you ask those who say that, have they walked into your home and spent time with you.

Even folks who say, “I have good friends,” when you ask them if those friends visit with them, if they know their children’s names, their anniversary, birthdays, if they spend holidays with them, if they’ve sat with their sick loved ones and if they’ve sat with yours, then that “I have a friend” thing begins to break down.

Paul Ingles interviews priest, activist and author John Dear.

PI: Well, I can tell you when I was watching the Charlottesville 2017 event that I was thinking that some of the counter protestors got into skirmishes with the white supremacy marchers were overlooking key components of effective non-violent protests. Freedom marchers and lunch counter protestors of the ‘60s were trained to take the abuse and the violence without resisting. They were taught not to intervene when fellow protestors were being savagely beaten. It’s the same message from Gandhi, right John Dear, essentially?

Right, and I agree with Brian; violence doesn’t work and violence and response to violence always leads to further violence. It’s not going to transform anybody. We need to change all these people. We all need to change. Everybody is redeemable, but a violent response to these kinds of demonstrations of hate will only inflame the situation. The media loves that.

Dr. King is still right; non-violence is our only hope. It’s a methodology for social change that works to transform everyone non-violently. It uses non-violent means for a non-violent end, but you’ve got to train people and you’ve got to teach people and you’ve got to fund it.

They’re spending a trillion dollars on educating violence. We’re all brainwashed in violence. People who are losing their power; white, ignorant people who have put their identity in that, they don’t know anything but violence, so our responsibility is we all have to be involved in the movement. We have to change this country to fund the education of non-violent conflict resolution for every human being on the planet really and to institutionalize non-violent conflict resolution in every city, in every country, between all the countries if we’re going to survive.

Elaine Baumgartel interviewed Frank Meeink who was drawn into white hate groups as a teen. He went to prison for some of his hate-based activities. He had a change of heart over time when he had normalizing encounters as Jews and blacks as a young adult and then he wrote a book called "The Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead."

EB: Your racial consciousness started to change when you were incarcerated. Did it change subtlety over time or was there a eureka moment?

FM: Not at first. It was a long time because even in prison and when I was leaving prison, I was still a skinhead. I was still an Aryan Nation white resistance member and I thought I was still going to be for life. 

The friends that I was making in prison, that was just prison. I was going to get out and things were going to go back to normal. 

I later on came to terms with the black thing and the white thing and the Latino and the Asian. I had come to the conclusion that we were all equal, but I still wanted to hold onto this one last hatred and that was for the Jews because I didn’t know any Jews. I had never met any, so the easiest thing to do is to hate what you don’t understand. 

The only thing I’ve ever been taught about the Jews was this behind the scenes evil empire of Israel. Who runs the Federal Reserve? I’m 14 years old and people were talking to me about the Federal Reserve and I’m like, “Sure, that sounds good to me.”

What happened was a Jewish guy took me under his wing and taught me the antique business and he knew that I was still a Nazi. I had a big swastika on my neck. He wasn’t a religious Jewish guy, but he was definitely Jewish. 

One day he gave me a pep talk because I always used to say how stupid I was. That was the thing that I always said. I don’t know why. Probably the inner self felt that way. One day he just gave me this pep talk about how I was the most street-smart person he had ever met. 

I remember when he was talking to me I had my Doc Martins on with red laces in and we’re in a truck driving through New Jersey, so there is not much to look at, it’s New Jersey, so, you talk to each other. As he kept talking to me about how street-smart I was, I remember looking down at my boots and being so embarrassed, just absolutely embarrassed. Here is this guy, just a great, great human being in my life and I still hate him.

That was the day I came to terms with it. When racist people come and say, “What about this and racism and ain’t you proud to be white?” I know that where that pride comes from is – it’s really not a pride, it’s more of a we hate other people because of. When God, a consistently higher power came into my life, it consistently kept proving that belief wrong to me. It kept putting people in my life at the wrong and the right times and saying, “Frank, judge now. You’re the biggest screw up I’ve got going on this earth,” and I was. I was a criminal, I was a thug, I was a liar, all that stuff. God finally slapped me for the last time upside my head.

Peace Talks Radio Host Carol Boss talks with Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers.

Dolores Huerta: A lot of people think; oh well, Cesar strolled through the fields to talk to farmworkers and everybody came out on strike. It didn’t happen that way at all. We started organizing farmworkers in 1962 when we left the community service organization and the strike did not start until 1965. 

During those three years, there was a lot of painstaking organizing; meeting with farmworkers in their homes, meeting with families, convincing them that they had power, convincing them that they could make changes, convincing them that if they didn’t do this, nobody was going to do it for them. 

So in 1965 when the strike happened, the workers were already organized. Since the Pilipino farmers came out on strike, then we had to support them. It was of course very thrilling when we got the workers together. They had to take a strike vote and when they did, of course it was very exhilarating. 

Boss: It sounded like cries of strike literally rocked the meeting halls.

Huerta: Yes it did. Yes it did. It was very scary for the workers. You’re talking about people who were very poor. When we went on strike in 1965, the wages for farmworkers were like $0.90 per hour. At the initial strike, we said we were going to strike for $1.25 and within a couple of months, the growers raised the wages to $1.25, but then we knew that the real issue was getting recognition. The workers needed the right to representation so that they could have collective bargaining agreements which really bound the growers legally. Not only did they have to raise the wages and the workers could negotiate their wages, but they also had to provide other benefits like drinking water, toilets, unemployment insurance, protection against if they would be fired unjustly, laid off when they shouldn’t have been laid off, things that the workers did not have. They needed these additional protections, not just wages. That’s what a collective bargaining agreement is between employers and their workers and that’s what we were shooting for; getting something that was enforceable by law and it couldn’t just be taken away.

Peace Talks Radio host Carol Boss talks with Erica Chenoweth, assistant professor at the 
Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver

Chenoweth: What we found is that the nonviolent campaigns succeeded twice as often as the violent ones and they also achieved significant material concessions such as autonomy or the forcing of competitive elections more than twice as often as their violent counterparts.

Boss: Could you be more specific too about what the differences in results between violent tactics and nonviolent tactics; why the success with the nonviolent tactics?

Chenoweth: Well we drilled down into the data. We had hundreds of cases to compare and what we did was we looked at the characteristics of violent and nonviolent campaigns and found that the nonviolent campaigns had one thing that really differentiated them from the violent ones and that was their sheer size. Nonviolent campaigns tend to be about 11 times larger on average as a proportion of the overall population compared with violent insurgencies. They are just way bigger and their sheer size allows them to activate all kinds of political dynamics that put pressure on the security forces, economic elites, business elites, educational authorities, cultural authorities and the like to reevaluate their own interests in the long term and that starts to pull those pillars of support away from their loyalty to the opponent. Basically size is really important. Nonviolent resistance allows popular campaigns to get really big because there are many lower barriers to participation and that’s what allows them to be so politically powerful.

Boss: Let’s turn to our country, the USA. Do you think that nonviolent resistance has an image problem in our country?

Chenoweth: Well I think nonviolent resistance has an image problem in a lot of places. I think that part of the reason Maria and I generally use the term “civil resistance” for example is because we find that it has less baggage than using the term “nonviolent resistance” where people immediately assume that you’re arguing from a moral position rather than a strategic or politically efficacious position. I think that part of that is nomenclature; part of it is just sheer misunderstanding about the power of nonviolent resistance. 

The way that people are taught in school is that Gandhi and King were just wonderful human beings who had very admirable moral qualities and behavior, but that they both got assassinated and neither of them really ended up getting what they wanted in the end. The nice guys finished last. 

We celebrate warfare, we celebrate our war heroes much more even when they fail, so it’s kind of a strange double standard that occurs with talking about nonviolent resistance and many progressive or radical communities, nonviolent resistance is a dirty word because it is equated with passivity or pacification. There are arguments out there that nonviolence helps the stat because people are not really willing to engage in truly militant, radical action and therefore the state wins. I think both of these perspectives that are very skeptical about nonviolent resistance are just not support in the empirical record at all. 

Peace Talks Radio host Suzanne Kryder talks with Rob Karwath, spokesperson for
Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project, in Duluth, Minnesota

ROB KARWATH: Well, I think what we see in our country and maybe even around the world these days is we are becoming polarized, at least in some high profile segments and ways. 

Speak Your Peace is a program that was developed in Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin 13 years ago. The centerpiece of the program is nine tenants. I often like to say that they are things that we learned in kindergarten or first grade, or we should have. I think most of us did, things like; listen, apologize, pay attention. If you’re going to criticize, make the criticism constructive and really nine tenants that say, “I will …” That’s an important part of it; “I will …” not “I’m going to make you do these things,” but “I will …” apologize when needed. I will pay attention. I will do what it takes to engage in healthy conversation with other people in community and I expect that those will be granted to me too. 

Sometimes when I present or show people Speak Your Peace or talk about it, they say, “Gosh, is this all there is? Where are the trained facilitators?” I tell them that the program was deliberately made simple so that any community could use these tools. Truly these are the simple basic human needs that all of us want and truly need and when we get them, we’re willing to engage and we’ll come back again even if we don’t win the day, but when we aren’t treated with those measures of civility, we’re not as likely to come back and we may end up saying, “I’ve had enough of the circus.”

KRYDER: What do you want to repeat about reducing polarization through Speak Your Peace?

KARWATH: I think Speak Your Peace is needed now maybe more than it has ever been needed in the 13 years that it has been around. It has worked at every level of community, every size, every geography. We have not worked with a community that said, “This really didn’t take care of what our needs were. Thank you, but …” It has worked in all of the places where it has been and we don’t go into communities and say, “We’ve got your solution.” We don’t, in some cases, even know the issues. We certainly don’t know them as well as they know them. What we do bring of value is a set of tools, a toolkit if you will, that will help them build solutions themselves. It’s not about us coming in with a magic elixir. We come in with tools and say, “You can use these tools to fix your problems.” Communities themselves go about doing it. That’s probably one of the best parts of Speak Your Peace.