There are really two principle strategies at work when dealing with the question of confronting political power with moral truth in the American context. The first, exhibiting personal conduct that is beyond reproach is a necessary, but not sufficient, prerequisite. Only once you have refined your character and demonstrated excellence in line with the stated ideals of this country, however, will you be in position to exercise the second strategy employed by Martin Luther King, Gandhi and others: the transcendental magic of turning hate into love.
Creative non-violence, including boycotts, sit-ins and other measures worked precisely because they incited state actors to enforce unjust laws unjustly. It is not easy, though, to avoid retaliating in the face of vicious dogs and water hoses and armed sheriffs with batons bearing down with malice and hate on unarmed protesters. It takes an extreme measure of strength and discipline to suppress the natural human urges to fight or run—but instead to stand your ground. The effect of this “middle path” was devastating in terms of the moral trauma it inflicted on the dominant forces of racism and bigotry.
It is time liberals re-learn these lessons. Freedom can never be earned by parroting the objectionable behavior of bullies. Bullies, in fact, gain strength from the moral weaknesses of their victims. It is tactically futile, in any event, to return cannon fire with slingshots. The only way to win in these situations is to regain the moral high ground. That would require an inner strength that liberals have thus far been unable to muster.
Resorting to name calling and threats is a tacit admission of defeat. It means you’ve lost. You’ve run out of appeals to intellect and the stimulation that great debate brings to advancing society.