Birmingham author Jim Douglass examines Gandhi path to martyrdom
Jim Douglass, author of "Gandhi and the Unspeakable," will be signing books at Little Professor on May 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (The Birmingham News/Greg Garrison)
By Greg Garrison - firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- After his successful book on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Birmingham author Jim Douglass tackled a biographical account of another martyr — the Hindu statesman Mohandas Gandhi.
In “Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment with Truth” (Orbis, $24), Douglass continues his spiritual analysis of what he calls powerful conspiracies that killed President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in their quest for truth, peace and justice.
“They’re out to see things in a different way and revolutionize reality,” Douglass said of the five martyrs.
Drawing on the writings of the mystic monk Thomas Merton, Douglass interprets “the Unspeakable” as the void in which revolutionary prophets, a president and a presidential candidate were all gunned down. All of them tried to speak truth to evil and it cost them their lives, Douglass said.
“They all had a willingness to go where other people will not, and for the sake of us all,” said Douglass, a Catholic peace activist who holds anti-war placards in weekly demonstrations at Five Points South. “What Merton identified so profoundly as the unspeakable retaliates and blocks them in very sinister ways from achieving what they are intent on doing. They take us both where we don’t want to go, and in a deeper sense, where we have to go.”
Douglass will be signing copies of “Gandhi and the Unspeakable” on Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Little Professor Book Center, 2717 18th St. South in Homewood.
Gandhi was assassinated on Jan. 30, 1948, by an anti-Muslim, Hindu nationalist group with complicity of forces in the new government of India, Douglass writes.
The Indian government covered up the nature of the conspiracy by not prosecuting the mastermind, Vinayak Daamodar Savarkar, Douglass said. “They held evidence that could have convicted him,” he said. “They were afraid of his power in the Hindu Nationalist Movement in the transition to independence. They did not pursue the truth in the trial that would have been necessary to understand the conspiracy. They covered it up in the trial itself.”
For the book, Douglass went over documents from the 1970 reinvestigation of the Gandhi murder.
He also traces Gandhi’s career, starting as a young lawyer who experienced persecution in South Africa in 1893, when a white passenger had him thrown off the train because of his skin color. As he organized against racial discrimination, a South African mob tried to lynch him in 1897. Gandhi moved back to India in 1915 and fought poverty as leader of the Indian National Congress starting in 1921. He began to use non-violent protest to press for independence and challenge the British Empire’s rule over India. In 1930, Gandhi challenged the salt tax law that gave the British a monopoly over the possession, use and sale of India’s salt. India achieved independence in 1947, but it resulted in a partition into India and Pakistan and violence between Hindus and Muslims, who Gandhi had hoped to unify.
“Gandhi was a politician trying to be a saint,” Douglass said. “He honored the equality of religions. Gandhi was religious in a deeply interfaith, reconciling way, with a prophetically visionary sense. He’s talking a universal language — the power of the truth force, the love force, at the heart of the universe.”
The Gandhi book has already drawn positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the national Catholic magazine, America.
His previous book, “JFK and the Unspeakable,” was endorsed by “Platoon” and “JFK” filmmaker Oliver Stone on Bill Maher’s national TV show. “It sold 10,000 copies the next month,” Douglass said.
Next up he’s writing about King and Malcolm X.
“Had Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X been able to complete their lives and visions in less tragic ways, a Muslim-Christian vision of transformation would have emerged as a way to change this country and the world,” Douglass said.
Douglass believes their lives illustrate a truth, that people must seek peace, or suffer violence.
“You can either take the way of terrorism, or you can take the way of non-violence,” he said.