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Spring Gillard
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Political Poison

I re-read the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver this summer. It’s one of my all time favourite books. I remember the first time I read it, I felt as if I was in Africa with the Prices, a Baptist missionary family from Georgia. I could hear and smell the Congo. The second time through I was more aware of the political content. It’s really the story of the Belgian Congo’s transition to independence (renamed Zaire in 1971, currently the Democratic Republic of the Congo). A great leader emerged during that period who was serious about improving the lives of his people. Patrice Lumumba was democratically elected and was in power for 12 weeks before being ousted in a US/Belgium supported coup, known as the Congo Crisis. He was later executed by firing squad. His agenda didn’t mesh with that of the U.S. No, they weren’t after oil this time, minerals abounded in Katanga province, particularly diamonds. With the support of Belgium, the U.S. installed Joseph-Desiré Mobutu as president. For more than 30 years, Mobutu terrorized and murdered his own people while living the high life and building himself mansions all over the world. This would be shocking if we hadn’t heard this story a thousand times before, in the past and in the present.

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.                                           

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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