Monday, August 19, 2013
Does the life of Gandhi change our views regarding his contribution to world peace?
Folks will soon begin preparation for the trip to Washington DC to remember the march led by Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago. It will be a great day filled with messages about hope and overcoming. Lost in the mix is the story that alters my perception of the movement.
There is little controversy headed into Saturday’s gathering. There was the news of gospel singer Donnie McClurkin being uninvited due the “potential controversy” his presence might have. McClurkin believes God has delivered him from the “curse” of homosexuality. He was set to perform during Saturday’s Reflection on Peace: From Gandhi to King, a concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray requested that McClurkin stay home to avoid protestors not so happy with his claim of having his feelings for men removed by God. A big problem was avoided by requesting McClurkin not to perform. That doesn’t address the big fat elephant hanging in the middle of the Capitol Mall.
Reflection of Peace: From Gandhi to King is mired by the mention of the man known for crafting nonviolent protest. My views of Gandhi have radically shifted since the release of Joseph Lelyveld’s book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India. There are a few points that force us to rethink the life and work of Gandhi.
Gandhi is herald as an icon to the American civil-rights movement. Despite his appeal to the work of Dr. King, Lelyveld’s book reveals Gandhi’s racism toward blacks of South Africa.
"We were then marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs," Gandhi complained during one of his campaigns for the rights of Indians settled South Africa. "We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized—the convicts even more so. They are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals."
Regarding Afrikaaners and Indians, he wrote: "We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do." That was possibly why he refused to allow his son Manilal to marry Fatima Gool, a Muslim, despite publicly promoting Muslim-Hindu unity.
Then there’s the matter of Gandhi’s relation with Manu, his 17-year-old great niece. When he was in his 70s, he encouraged Manu to be naked during her nightly cuddles with him. Gandhi began sleeping naked with Manu and other young women. He told a woman on one occasion: "Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience."
On one occasion, Gandhi forced Manu to walk through a thick jungle were sexual assaults had occurred to retrieve a pumice stone he used on his feet. When she returned hysterical, Gandhi laughed at her and said: "If some ruffian had carried you off and you had met your death courageously, my heart would have danced with joy."
Jad Adam’s book Gandhi: Naked Ambition claims Gandhi enslaved his followers with such bizarre sexual demands that it became difficult for many people to take him seriously, even during his own lifetime.
In his own autobiography, Gandhi was candid about abusing his wife. He shared the story of beating her for failing to clean a toilet.
Lelyveld claims the real love of Gandhi’s life was a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach. Gandhi left his wife in 1908 to be with him.
"How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance." Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach.
Gandhi nicknamed himself "Upper House" and Kallenbach "Lower House," and he made Lower House promise not to "look lustfully upon any woman." The two then pledged "more love, and yet more love . . . such love as they hope the world has not yet seen."
‘I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the intercourse of men and women,’ Gandhi told Kallenbach.
If alive today, and living in America, Gandhi would be charged with spousal abuse, sexual misconduct with minors and torture. Does any of that negate the work Gandhi did to promote world peace? He did write a letter to Hitler asking him not to start a world war.
As cruel as it is to bring to the surface Gandhi’s dirty laundry, isn’t it important that the rest be told when we use his name to raise the banner for all types of human rights?
Can we realistically talk about women’s rights when using Gandhi’s name? Can we talk about protecting our youth given Gandhi’s relationship with his great-niece?
We can summons the memory of Gandhi to discuss gay rights. He has that in common with McClurkin.
Like most people, I love the Gandhi of the movie. Sadly, there is more to that story. It’s a past I hate mentioning, but, as always, it’s important to tell the rest of the story.
Reflection of Peace: From Gandhi to King. What does that mean given the rest of the story?