EQUANIMITY AND AGGRESSION
By Uriah J. Fields
After several weeks of debating and wrangling, instigated by Republicans and members of the Tea Party (The Fort Sumter Tea Party, not the Boston Tea Party) who demanded no increase in revenue and a reduction in spending greater than an increase to be made in the debt ceiling bill, the bill passed in the House by a 269-161 vote and the next day in the Senate by a 74-26 vote. Hours later President Obama signed the debt ceiling bill into law. Later Standard & Poor (S&P), one of the three main rating agencies, downgraded the United States from an AAA to an AA+ rating. The rating determines the creditworthiness of an obligor with regard to a particular debt security.
About a week after the President signed the debt ceiling bill I sent him an approximately 700-word letter titled, Equanimity President Obama for Health Sake which urged him to seek equanimity and allow it to direct his actions, especially as it relates to his personal health.
This letter, referenced on Facebook and posted on www.george.loper.org, received public responses much greater than I expected. The most notable reactions called for President Obama to fight his opposition in Congress and emphasized that Republicans and members of the Tea Party stated, as announced repeatedly by the Speaker of the House, that their primary objective is to make Obama a one-term president. These respondents maintained that equanimity is not compatible with fighting the fight they want the president to engage. Before discussing this point let me define equanimity.
"Equanimity" (ee-kwuh-'nim-i-tee) is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "evenness of mind especially under stress, a right disposition and balance." In the vernacular of ordinary people, like myself, it means being cool or calm, even in the midst of unpleasant circumstances. In this regard equanimity is unlike happiness but like joy that abides even when there is suffering. Few people would take exception to the fact that being president can be stressful.
The question raised is whether or not equanimity is complementary with aggression? Another way of stating this matter is whether an equanimity practitioner can effectively engage in aggression? The relationship between equanimity and aggression is dissimilar to the relationship between peace and war which cannot coexist, although it is true that sometimes peace is the result of war. On the contrary, equanimity can coexist with aggression, i.e., a person can practice or be governed by equanimity while engaged in fighting. In that situation he can be calm. This results from the love possessed by the equanimity practitioner. It is true that love may involve violence. If equanimity meant nonviolence in all situations I could not embrace equanimity. Because of love this is not the same as the phrase generally credited to Chaplain Howell Forgy who was aboard the USS New Orleans during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, when he said "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." In the Old Testament there are more than a few accounts of shouting and praising going on in the midst of battles. Again, it is questionable as to whether equanimity existed during these battles.
Over a half century ago, following the arrest of Rosa Parks who refused to give her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr., and this writer, Uriah J. Fields, were two of eighteen persons who on December 5, 1955, the first day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott met at the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church where we organized the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) that would provide organizational leadership for the bus boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected president and I was elected recording secretary of the MIA. One of the things I disagreed with King on was the appropriateness of practicing nonviolence in all situations regardless of the violent behavior of those who were opposing desegregation of buses in Montgomery and justice for Americans of African descent. As a situational ethicist, I did not then nor now subscribe to nonviolene as the sole approach to apply when confronting violence. I accept that "Self-preservation is the first law of nature." Sometimes that requires by any means necessary. Having said these things I want to make it clear that nonviolence is in my tool box and I honor King for his leadership. I have discussed his legacy and my take on nonviolene in some detail in my book, Inside the Montgomery Bus Boycott: My Personal Story.
Let me speak pointedly to the compatibility issue of equanimity and aggression. In this regard, two factors should be highlighted: (1) equanimity and aggression are compatible, and (2) a person can practice equanimity while engaged in aggression and maintain calmness in the pursuit of justice, equality and peace.
In creative aggression fighting fair is a cardinal principle. It bears no relationship to the United States aggression that continues even now in Afghanistan and Pakistan after ten years of war. America is not fighting fair when drones are used to kill not only targeted terrorists but innocent people. No policeman worthy of wearing a policeman's badge, would deliberately kill a kidnapped victim while attempting to kill the kidnapper. That's barbaric. After World War I at the Geneva Protocol, a treaty banning the use of lethal gas and bacteriological weapons was signed by most First World War combatants in 1925. Nazi Germany abiding by that treaty did not use poison gas in France and England even when losing World War II. There can be no justification for the United States using drones which is to be classified similarly as poison gas. Moreover, it is a cowardly act. Cowards do use high technology.
In addition to fighting fair, creative aggression requires that a combination of methods be employed simultaneously that include, but are not limited to, negotiation and the Gandhi-King passive resistance approach, to reduce or destroy evil forces. Love is the dominant element in equanimity. Love suffers long and is redemptive. There are times when a person cannot stay out of harm's way and there are times when he should choose to be in harm's way. Nothing enables a person to be favored while he is in harm's way like equanimity. Jesus acknowleged this when he said, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace." (John 16:33)
Some helpful hints for the person engaged in creative aggresssion: (1) be positive, (2) say aloud often positive affirmations, (3) pray and meditate frequently, (4) be aware of the present and realize that it came to pass, not to stay, and (5) maintain faith in yourself, humanity and God.
Again, I state what I expressed in my letter to President Obama: I urge you Mr. President to practice and allow equanimity to direct your actions and be vigilant with bulldog tenacity in the pursuit of justice for all. Do not take too seriously yourself, your adversaries or circumstances, including problems facing America, many of which existed before you became president and will remain after, hopefully, your eight-year presidency, notwithstanding the good you have done and I am confident will continue to do. I close this discourse as I did my letter to you, Take care of yourself. That is the most important thing that you can do for yourself, your family and America.
Note: to read my letter to President Obama visit: www.george.loper.org. or www.gibbsmagazine.com
Visit: www.uriahfields.com to read a variety of writings by Uriah J. Fields.
Copyright 2011 by Uriah J. Fields