Today in 1947, the British formally ended their 200-year colonial rule of India. The opinion of the rest of the civilized world forced them to bow to the inevitable due in large part to the work of one man, Mahatma Gandhi. Beginning in 1893, Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa working against racial discrimination in a peaceful, yet revolutionary, way. He perfected a method of non-violent civil disobedience that could be practiced by everyone. Upon his return to India in 1915, he joined the Indian National Congress and by 1920, he assumed leadership of it. On January 26, 1930, the Congress declared Indian Independence. While the British Raj refused to recognize it, they did begin negotiations. That effort ended when the Raj declared war on Germany in 1939. By 1942, Gandhi and his supporters were jailed for demanding Indian independence. Their non-violent resistance continued in earnest throughout WW2. Finally, in 1947, the British quit India and partitioned the area, unfortunately along religious lines. Gandhi’s non-violent methods likely helped keep the peace during that time as well.
Why the simplified history lesson? After the horrendous events of the weekend and the President’s ridiculous press conferences, it is important to remember that even small actions can lead to important change. The violence perpetrated by neo-Nazis and their ilk cannot be accepted or normalized. We can resist in small, yet powerful ways, and we can change the world.