Paraphrase the quote:  “Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dr. King developed many great ideas and quotes, but I think that this is one of his best.  Dr. King's approach to nonviolence was conceived out of a great moral position and calculation.  Dr. King's argument for the need of nonviolence came arises from the idea that if one seeks to establish a new moral order, it can only be done with an elimination of violence.  In this light, King's message is relatively clear.  Racial discrimination and prejudice creates a climate of hatred that must be encountered in full terms that change the moral structure of being.  The idea of violence, whether in self- defense or in provocation, does not change the moral structure.  If one wishes to change the climate of hatred that envelops a group of people, then there must be an adherence to what can be as opposed to what is.  It is in this light where Dr. King's quote speaks volumes in that violence, in any form, is a continuation of the Status Quo, a replication of what is as opposed to the transformative power of what can and should be.  For example, consider the violence caused by war.  If a nation that believes in justice has been attacked by terrorists, and their response is to bomb the location where the terrorists live, the survivors of this bombing will more likely embrace terrorism.  A nation that once believed in justice ends up becoming no different, from a moral standpoint, than the terrorists that attacked it.  Additionally, it has sown the seeds for future terrorist activity in creating bitterness in those who survived.  This is a modern application of Dr. King's quotation, one that argued the need for fundamental moral and spiritual change through the embrace of nonviolence.

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