When the British announced a blockade of Boston Harbor as a consequence for the Boston Tea Party, Thomas Jefferson wanted to show Virginia’s solidarity with the patriots there. But how?
Jefferson drafted a resolution calling for a day of fasting on June 1, 1774, hoping that their actions would help in “averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights.” It passed with with unanimous support in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and George Washington noted in his diary, “Went to church, fasted all day.”
In 2020, as America watches the George Floyd protests play out over social media, many find themselves asking how they can show their solidarity with protesters without risking tear gas, police violence, or Covid-19. How can they add their voice to the demands for reform, no matter their geographic location? The answer is the same one our founding fathers used; a national day of fasting.
The founding father of India, Mohandas Gandhi, also used national days of fasting with great success. His country had been polarized along religious divisions, and fasting was an action that everyone could participate in. (For those not healthy enough to only drink water for 24 hours, he suggested fruit or fruit juice.) His motivation, like Thomas Jefferson, was the British infringement of civil liberties, although it was under King George V instead of King George III.
On the morning of the first national day of fasting, Gandhi addressed a crowd of 150,000 at a local beach. “No country has ever risen, no nation has ever been made without sacrifice, and we are trying an experiment of building up ourselves by self-sacrifice without resorting to violence in any shape or form. This is satyagraha.” It united his countrymen like never before.
In America, the power of fasting has often been wielded by individuals fighting for social change; Martin Luther King, Jr. fasted in a Selma jail cell, and Cesar Chavez fasted for weeks to galvanize the UFW behind nonviolence. Their self-sacrifices inspired many, but racial and economic injustices still need to be addressed in 2020.
At a recent press conference, Donald Trump described himself as “an ally of all peaceful protesters,” and held up a Bible. Jesus fasted for 40 days, doing the soul searching that America needs to do as we wrestle with systemic issues in our criminal justice system, striving to be a nation that truly lives the words “with liberty and justice for all.”
It’s hard to think of a protest more peaceful than fasting; would Donald Trump join a national day of fasting? Fasting is free, beneficial to health, and accessible to all. Since 2017, fastforpeace.org has organized a monthly fast on the 15th of the month. Men and women from across the United States and the world participate for whatever 24-hour period works for them — Gandhi recommended a dinner-to-dinner fast — as a shared commitment to promoting peaceful resolutions.
The next fast for peace, June 15, will mark 3 weeks since George Floyd was killed. America’s problems won’t be solved in a single day; there is much work to be done, and it will require compromise. Fasting — willfully giving up something up you could have insisted on— encourages the mindset that can lead to productive dialogue. Those willing to have those conversations can opt-in through the fast for peace. The shared experience of abstaining from food for a day can unite our nation, as India learned a century ago.
Will you pledge for the fast for peace on Monday, June 15, 2020?
Gandhi wrote that when hundreds of thousands of people fasted together, it ennobled individuals and nations. Make America Noble Again. Now that’s a slogan worthy of a hat.
Learn more about the fast for peace as a vehicle for political change at: PhoenixCongress2020.com
Join the discussion on Reddit in r/fastforpeace.
Other articles on Medium:
A call to action around Martin Luther King, Jr.’s triple evils: The Marginalized Must Unionize in 2020
An open letter to the President with our demands; Namaste, Trump
A look at our duties as Americans and the legislation they inspire; The Blueprint for a Better America