Yesterday, when I told a friend that I would be fasting on July 4th, he looked at me and asked. “Why?”
While I wanted to spill out all of my various personal and political reasons for choosing to engage in a fast, I found that I was unable to respond with anything more than a brief explanation that I was doing it in solidarity with the Code Pink “Troops Home” Fast, that I am anti-war and anti-torture, that I would be fasting for peace. And, all of that is true.
However, I have no illusions that my fasting, more or less on my own, in the progressive mecca of Berkeley, California, is going to end war or bring troops home. I am not fasting with any hope of bringing about a change of heart or mind on the part of Bush, Cheney, or any of their posse of neocon war-makers. For, indeed, I am not fasting for them.
In 1924 Mahatma Gandhi wrote the following in a letter to George Joseph: “I fasted to reform those who loved me. But I will not fast to reform, say, General Dyer who not only does not love me, but who regards himself as my enemy. Am I quite clear?”
In an interview that same year Gandhi explained:
“Fasting as a weapon can only be used against a lover, a friend, a follower or co-worker who, on account of his love for you and the sufferings you undergo actually, realize his mistake and corrects himself. He purifies himself of an evil that he knows and acknowledges being an evil. You recall him from his evil ways to the correct path.”
It is a privilege to fast, to choose to intentionally go without solid food, and it is an act that I undertake in my own struggle to understand my privilege and role in the suffering, the involuntary fasts, the death and destruction that the maintenance of our privilege inflicts upon so many others in this world that we share. I am fasting first and foremost to reform myself, and ultimately, our society.
For, in our collective silence, our tacit acceptance of war and occupation, we perpetuate and legitimate the evil that our country’s imperialistic endeavors bring the world over. I am fasting to acknowledge our common humanity rather than our separation, for in all of our inaction, we only strengthen the walls that divide.
Imagine if each of us who claim to be against war and occupation, against oppression, against torture, did something daily — if we engaged in one action every day to heal our world. Imagine if we all did that today, tomorrow, and onward without fail. One action by everyone, every day. I truly believe that change could happen. But, we don’t. I know that I don’t.
I begin my fast on the day that we celebrate our country’s independence from domination by a foreign power — as a statement of my own commitment to walk a more active path, as a way to open dialogue within my community about the paths that we all can take to end the occupation of Iraq, the injustice in Palestine supported by US military aide, as well as the deep inequities that mark our own divided society. Let us together be reformed as we begin to truly take action towards peace and justice globally, as we tear down the walls of hatred and greed that separate us from our common heart. Then, we’ll really have something to celebrate.