Diane Nash, George W. Bush, Selma and Our Understanding of Nonviolence

 In Bush Administration, democracy, nonviolence, Obama Administration, War

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

In case you missed it, civil rights heroine Diane Nash, one of the relatively few women in leadership positions in the civil rights movement in the ’50s and ’60s (she was a key aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. and a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC) boycotted the 50th anniversary commemorative march in Selma, Alabama last weekend, not wanting to march with George W. Bush. (She was at the event, but her conscience wouldn’t let her be seen marching with Bush).

Nash said, “”I think the Selma Movement was about nonviolence and peace and democracy and George Bush stands for just the opposite—for violence and war and stolen elections,” also noting that his administration conducted torture. “George Bush’s presence is an insult to me and to people who really do believe in nonviolence,” Nash continued, voicing concern that the nonviolent legacy of the Selma Movement would now be “confused.”

I love the following part of Nash’s interview the most:

“Back in the 1960’s we did not know if nonviolence would work,” Nash told NewsOne. “Now we know that it does.” Nash said that she thought the Selma March anniversary “should have been a celebration of nonviolence,” which she added, was “definitely one of the most significant social inventions of the 20th century.”

A longtime respected colleague of mine voiced some mixed emotions about Ms. Nash’s position, stating he understood her but also that we need to welcome former adversaries when they join us.

I agree, and that certainly is in the spirit of nonviolence, if the former adversary is in fact transforming into an ally and “joining” us. If I thought that were true in George W. Bush’s case, I’d welcome him to the side of peace, social and economic justice, civil rights and nonviolence, though I’d be highly skeptical and would demand some accountability or at least repentance from him for his egregious actions as president. I see no evidence Bush is anywhere close to such a transformation.

What Bush’s appearance at the Selma commemoration does show is hard-earned mainstream respect for the courageous civil rights heroines and heroes and the social progress they sweated, bled and died for. But that has nothing to do with war criminals like Bush. Sister Nash was right, but that’s not really the point. From her comments I think it’s pretty clear that on a gut level her conscience just wouldn’t let her be at the same event as Bush, so it was much more a personal than political statement.

And of course Barack Obama, aka President DroneStrike, is no advocate of nonviolence, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. We need to push him not just to conclude a peace deal with Iran, but also to end drone strikes and give up the madness of a new war in Iraq and Syria.

Thanks to Common Dreams and NewsOne for their reporting on Diane Nash’s powerful statement of conscience.

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Showing 5 comments
  • Rev Dr. O.D. Robinson Psy.d

    George W. Bush he know about Selma Alabama we want to thank him for attended From your America community Organizer Rev Dr O.D. Robinson Psy.d

  • Jerry "Peacemaker"

    More power to Diane Nash for refusing to associate with one of the world’s most destructive, unprosecuted war criminals. Honor is given to men and women who have acted honorably, and George W. Bush/Dick Cheney/Tony Blair et al actions during the lies, run up to, initiation and continuation of the Iraq War crimes against humanity can only be described as the most dishonorable possible for human beings. Wars of aggression, according to the Nuremburg Trials, is the “supreme crime”, so Ms. Nash did precisely the moral, ethical right thing. If more people had her principles, war criminals would be rightly in prison, therefore deterring all future wars of aggression by those willing to murder hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, while destroying the lives of millions of equally innocent survivors.

    • KevinMartin


  • Peter Bergel

    I agree with Kevin’s distinction between welcoming former adversaries when they join us and understanding when adversaries are using our struggles and our events for their own aggrandizement. There is no evidence that any of the Bushes have had any kind of a change of heart. So here’s to Diane Nash and those who reported on her stand of conscience.

  • dhfabian

    Does anyone know what is meant (in this article) by “economic justice”? I understand what it used to mean,and see that it’s coming back into use, but it seems to have a different meaning today. What would be “economic justice” for our jobless poor, and many of our unemployable? For the jobless poor, we’ve already been calling for job creation for over 30 years now. The last I heard there are 7 jobs for every 10 people who need one. What should we do about those for whom there are no jobs right now?

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