Frederick Smith, Guest Columnist, The Press-Citizen
Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi was born on Oct. 2, 1869. His sesquicentennial gives us an opportunity to take stock of the legacy of this towering figure of the first half of the 20th century — both his heroism and his contradictions. He is rightly revered as the prime mover against the British in India’s quest for independence, finally realized on Aug. 15, 1947. He is celebrated because of his activism, self-sacrifice, nonviolence, and heroism in the face of two centuries of brutal colonialism, war, and genocide. His campaigns of "swadeshi" (championing of local production), mass rallies, and village cleanliness remain models of strategic political and social action. His carefully crafted methods of nonviolent action at a time of extreme violence in the world, highlighted by Hitler, Stalin, and Mao (among others), remain an inspiration. His personal qualities of fearlessness, frugality, honesty, and constant self-examination, coupled with his exceptional literary output (his collected works come to more than 100 volumes), also serve as paradigms in an increasingly fragmented and distracted world.