Friday, May 29, 2009

"Amazing Grace" - Amazing Movie!

"Amazing Grace" is a movie about the abolition movement in England, but it has meaningful and inspiring messages for the modern peace movement, as well. It's also a darned good movie in it's own right, especially for fans of period pieces. I give it five peace signs, easily.

One of the early scenes shows the protagonist - William ("Wilber") Wilberforce - holding a meeting at his estate with very few attendees, much to his dismay. How many of us peace activists have held such meetings, with our hearts full of passion for the cause and in need of an audience? Without giving too much away, his later meetings have larger attendance.

Other scenes emphasize the importance of the slave-industrial complex to the British economy, and the reluctance of politicians to support abolition because of the negative economic impacts on their constituents. The parallel to the importance of the violence-industrial complex to the US economy, and the impediment this poses for progress toward a more peaceful society, is obvious. The abolitionist come up with a creative legal move around this - I hope advocates for nonviolence will come up with a similarly creative approach to break the stranglehold of the violence industry.

One of my favorite lines from the film comes in a scene where a young fan of Wilber's efforts is consoling him during a bout of discouragement after years of campaigning have yielded (apparently) no results. The British Empire is in a sustained period of war with America and France, and the public is too distracted by the wars to pay attention to anything else. Any voice of opposition to the Crown on any topic - including that of abolition - is considered sedition. Wilbur's new friend reassures him that “when people stop being afraid they rediscover their compassion.” This thought, along with other encouragements, gives Wilber the strength to carry on.

The modern peace movement can learn a lot and gain much strength from the story of William Wilberforce. Whether you're campaigning for a Department of Peace, or for the Youth PROMISE act, or for any significant change that will reduce violence, you can be assured that the momentum of history will eventually lead society to the logical conclusion. Carry on!

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