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Progressive Values Stories: Mimi Kennedy on Nonviolence

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Message Edwin Rutsch
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Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.  Martin Luther King, Jr

Mimi Kennedy is an actress and Advisory Board chair of the Progressive Democrats of America. I interviewed her at a conference in Los Angeles, California.  She told me that nonviolence is her most important progressive value. She told me the story about having painfully learned the importance of truth and transparency at a young age as well.

Nonviolence is a flop. The only bigger flop is violence.  Joan Baez

Progressive Values Stories: Mimi Kennedy on Nonviolence

I’m chair of the Progressive Democrats of America, National Advisory Board chair, an actress.  I was on the sitcom Dharma and Greg, which culminated a long career in New York and Hollywood.  Dennis Kucinich asked me to accompany him on his presidential campaign, which was like a shoestring campaign, so little TV power.  That let to the Progressive Democrats of America which was the progressives in the party wanted to change the party in 2004.

Now I find myself very embroiled in Democratic politics, and I’m happy to be here, although I was raised Republican in Rochester, New York, but the Vietnam War changed all that for me. 

The core value is borrowed from Martin Luther King – nonviolence, which means everything but violence.  The core value is not to commit violence against life on earth -- people certainly, and increasingly the environment as well.  Conflict is inevitable, violence is not inevitable.  Human beings will always be in conflict with each other for psychological reasons, if not for reasons of scarcity of resources.  So we have to learn to adjudicate our conflicts with nonviolent means.

The progressive movement is to strengthen the laws to make more just the laws by which human beings live, and I think the U.S. Constitution is a pretty great law by which we live, based on the Magna Carta.  Right now it’s under attack from the right wing ideologues who pretend to know who God is.  They say the primacy of God and the soul – I was raised Catholic – I’m all for the soul and God.  But that law needs men and women’s hands to make it just. 

Progressives believe thou shalt not kill.  They take it seriously.  That’s their aspiration and their modus operandi.  And life is mysterious, nobody’s perfect, but that is their aspiration.  I believe conservatives believe you can definitely kill when you must, and increasingly, they are killing for reasons that have to do with selfish, immoral preservation of not only their lives but their lifestyles, and that’s based on fear, and that’s giving in to the worst of humanity. 

We are all afraid.  It’s what we do about it that matters.  But it all comes from childhood.  I have to laugh, but the only spanking I ever got in my household was for lying at age three.  And boy I remember that.  So I got it.  Don’t lie.  Never going to get you anything good. 

And honesty and truth and transparency are very important to me – no matter how much you may want that piece of candy.  I snuck into the kitchen and got into the stash that my mother, a believer in rewards – I think she was toilet training my little brother, and I knew where that candy was.  I took a piece, came out, my father said, “Did you just eat a piece of candy?”  He said “Did someone say you could have it?”  So he gave me the out.  I said “who?”  He said “ugh, oh”.  So I gave the name of the babysitter.  I knew not to say mother, so I said our babysitter Carmen.  He looked at me and he knew he had a moment of how am I am going to teach this girl.  So I got a whack.  That was very unusual in my family.  It was hurtful.

Edwin:  How did that relate to progressive values?

Answer:  He didn’t kill me.  It did hurt me.  I learned that someone who loved me very deeply and was trying to raise me right.  He did not want me to lie, and was not going to lie to me.  I think that’s a good way for people to behave to each other.

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. . . . which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

More About Nonviolence

- peaceful resistance to a government by fasting or refusing to cooperate;
- The theory, doctrine, or practice of peaceful resistance to a government by fasting or refusing to cooperate.

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Founder of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy. The Culture of Empathy website is a growing portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, (more...)
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