Last night I watched, again, the 1982 film Gandhi. As perhaps the most recognizable social movement icon ever, you may be surprised to find so many parallels between Mohandas K. Gandhi and me. That's right, me.
Let's start with the obvious: we're both men with strong vegetarian convictions. We're attracted to Indian women but fighting temptation. Our fathers held socially prominant positions (his a local political leader, mine a nuclear engineer) and we are more educated than 99% of the world's population (he as a lawyer, me as a sociologist).
Gandhi and I both highly value minimal living - that is, not taking more than we need - when others are less priviledged. We agree on the virtues of democracy and the necessity of resisting unjust authority. Like Gandhi, I believe non-violent resistance can overcome violent oppression. We both take loving our fellow humans - friends and enemies alike - as a moral imperative that should not be sacrificed in our struggles against oppression. When others do not receive an equitable share of bread, water, dignity, or respect, we believe we have a moral duty to rectify that. We also share the belief that personal actions - such as the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the words we choose - can be important means for rectifying these injustices.
I could go on.
Sure, you could find differences if you look hard enough - we have vastly different senses of style, he's Indian and I'm American, he's a Hindu and I'm an atheist - but this would be nit-picking, wouldn't it? As Gandhi saw Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians as brothers under the same god, I see us all as passengers on the same great, yellow submarine.
I've got to admit, I admire Gandhi more than anyone, ever. He oozed humility, breathed compassion, and never stopped challenging himself to live up to his ideals. He made idealism a possibility - his had concrete effects on the world around him.
I'll also admit that on every organic, union-made, logo-less t-shirt I wear I have written, what would Gandhi do?