In the last year of Leo Tolstoy’s life, he engaged in a correspondence with a young Indian lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi. At the time, Gandhi was fighting for the human rights of Indians living in South Africa.
After reading Tolstoy’s A Letter to a Hindu, Gandhi wanted to help Tolstoy translate it and get it published in India. The book called for Indians to engage in passive resistance to end British rule.
Gandhi wrote in his autobiography:
“Three moderns have left a deep impress on my life, and captivated me: Raychandbhai by his living contact; [Leo] Tolstoy by his book, The Kingdom of God is Within You; and [John] Ruskin by his Unto this Last.”
As Tolstoy was only two months away from death, he wrote to Gandhi:
“The more I live – and specially now that I am approaching death, the more I feel inclined to express to others the feelings which so strongly move my being, and which according to my opinion, are of great importance. That is, what one calls non-resistance, is in reality nothing else but the discipline of love undeformed by false interpretation. Love is the aspiration for communion and solidarity with other souls, and that aspiration always liberates the source of noble activities. That love is the supreme and unique law of human life which everyone feels in the depth of one’s soul…That law of love has been promulgated by all the philosophies – Indian, Chinese, Hebrew, Greek and Roman.”
Tolstoy believed that Christianity best expressed the law of love in principle, though not by actual practicing Christians. The fact that the law of love was promulgated throughout other religions and philosophies is what made it possible for an old Russian author and a young Indian lawyer to meet on common ground.
For both of them, their love of God is what made them oppose violence. Their principled actions inspired others to follow.
In 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:
“Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by the Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of “Satyagraha” (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force: “Satyagraha,” therefore, means truth-force or love force) was profoundly significant to me. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform.”
Gandhi’s strategy succeeded because he knew the numbers were on his side. My favorite part of the 1982 film Gandhi was when Gandhi was asked by a British officer if he expected the British to simply leave India.
In response, Gandhi said:
“Yes. In the end, you will walk out, because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350,000,000 Indians if those Indians refuse to cooperate. And that is what we intend to achieve: peaceful, nonviolent, non-cooperation – till you, yourselves, see the wisdom of leaving.”
According to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, it was estimated that the Taliban core strength was approximately 60,000 fighters in 2017. When they added the Taliban’s allies, the number ranges up to as many as 200,000 people.
The population of Afghanistan was recently estimated at 37 million in 2021. It is reasonable to believe that 200,000 people cannot bully 37 million people into submission for long if the vast majority of the broader population refuses to cooperate with the Taliban’s barbaric agenda.
In the United States, we also need a Gandhi-style movement to “awake” progressives to the view that conservatives are human beings too. I believe President Biden would be a lot more acceptable to conservatives if he said:
“No one should ever lose their job in America because they voted for a Republican. I’m not going to change my beliefs, but I will always fight for your freedom of speech and your right to make a living. The vast majority of the 75 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump had nothing to do with the attack on the Capitol Building. According to the FBI, 90 to 95 percent of the attackers were described as ‘one-off cases.’ The rest were fringe groups and will be prosecuted. Only the people who committed the violence on the Capitol Building will face criminal prosecution.”
From the beginning of this pandemic, I have regularly worn a mask, engaged in social distancing, and I got vaccinated as soon as I could. If President Biden wants more people to get vaccinated, he needs to stop progressives from trying to criminalize and demonize conservatism.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. He has been published in numerous outlets, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. When he's not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in New York. Read Robert Zapesochny's Reports — More Here.
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