Foundational stories: Finding accomplices

“There’s nothing more radically activist than a truly spiritual life. And there’s nothing more truly spiritual than a radically activist life.”

Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality

At the dawn of a new day, I listen to hear what I will write. I did not expect to be writing about accomplices today. But as I prayed about the next episode of this series of foundational stories, I am trying to express what or who I was looking for when I retired and moved back to Iowa (2017).

This quote immediately came to mind. “Destroy” might sound extreme, but the author is one of the most nonviolent people I know.

Randomly passing an accomplice on the street and throwing up a fist at each other as we go our separate ways to destroy all that is rotten in this world will never fail to give me extra energy and a single tear of gratitude for what this city is creating.

Mutual Aid friend

I leave the author unnamed because we never know what the authorities will use against us. I include myself in this by saying “against us“. I say Mutual Aid friend because we are both involved in a Mutual Aid community, which means we all support each other.

Although accomplice is defined as a person who helps another commit a crime, the meaning in the quote is more like associate or collaborator.

Or is it?

Nonviolent civil disobedience most often involves intentionally committing a crime. I previously wrote about being trained as a trainer for nonviolent direct actions, i.e. the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. And being prepared to break the law by blocking the doors of the Federal building in downtown Indianapolis, if necessary, to try to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

I intentionally broke the law when I resisted the draft.

And there is the whole question of what is legal and who determines that? Legality and justice are not the same. Laws often enforce injustice, protecting the status quo.

The Doctrines of Discover gave permission to steal the land from and kill indigenous peoples all over the world. Manifest destiny said the expansion of white settlers across the land was justified and inevitable. There is the institution of enslavement. Forced assimilation.


…Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place to-​day, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on that separate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her — the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-​bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. If the tax-​gatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, “But what shall I do?” my answer is, “If you really wish to do anything, resign your office.” When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished. But even suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man’s real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now…

Henry David Thoreau

I hope the foundational stories I’ve written thus far illustrate that what has been meaningful for me is to find people and communities who act instead of just talk. I was looking for such people and organizations to work with when I moved to Iowa. I’m blessed to have been led to them.


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