The world tuned in last night to watch the sadness and outrage as a community was torn apart by the choices of a few. Regardless of what you believe about this situation, it’s difficult to see how burning down a pizza place or pharmacy brings justice or builds a strong, vibrant and thriving community.
As I watched I was reminded of something. There’s a difference between a riot and a revolution and the difference is profound.
A revolution can come in a variety of forms, from the peaceful transition of power we call an election, or the protests of the Civil Rights Movement embodied in men like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the more confrontational diplomacy of the American Revolution. All these revolutions have something in common.
They have a unity of purpose defined by a clear goal. They have leaders that inspire and empower people to accomplish that goal with strategic vision and tactical precision. Those involved in the revolution have a commitment to the goal that was best expressed by our Founders. They are willing to give their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in pursuit of the fulfillment of that goal.
A riot is isn’t like that. A riot isn’t about people coming together to bring a clear goal to life. It’s a bunch of individuals focused on themselves. It’s a bunch of individuals expressing their frustration through destruction. It’s a bunch of individuals with no real interest in coming together to solve a problem, but to express their hopeless belief that this problem has no solution. Riots don’t have goals or leaders. No one would consider committing their lives, fortunes or sacred honor for the success of a riot.
There is no honor in rioting, only survival.
This is why a revolution produces names worthy to be remembered, Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington, Paul Revere. Riots only produce countless victims who suffer at the hands of anonymous criminals. The names remembered for riots aren’t the looters, but the looted, not the violent, but the victim.
To be sure, there is a better way. The most significant and difficult thing you will ever do is learn to have a healthy relationship with someone else. No where is this more true than in the challenges of building this great experiment, this great melting pot, we call America.
Riots don’t solve problems. They create more.
The quote is from a dubious source, but Mao Tse Tung in his Little Red Book once said, “What is needed is a permanent revolution.” It’s true. We need the kind of revolution that only comes with a change of heart. We need God to grant us the gift of repentance when we’re wrong and the capacity for forgiveness when we’ve been wronged. We need individuals who will lead with clear vision as we all pledge our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the worthy and difficult goal of using who we are what we have for the benefit of others.
That is the significant and difficult work that will make our communities strong.
That’s a revolution worth having.