Renouncing an honor is yet another way to express dissent without resorting to violence. One renounces an honor or title bestowed by a governing body in order to protest some measure or behavior enacted by the body or any member thereof. This renunciation is especially significant if the honor is closely associated with the adversary’s cause.
One example of this occurred in Hollywood in 1973. The Oscars are considered among the most prestigious awards in the motion pictures industry. When Marlon Brando was awarded an Oscar for his performance in “The Godfather,” he sent Sacheen Littlefeather to decline the award on his behalf. Littlefeather was a little-known Native American activist at the time. Brando’s purpose in sending Littlefeather to decline the honor was to protest Hollywood portrayals of Native Americans.
Another, more recent example includes the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts have a policy of denying membership to anyone who identifies himself as homosexual, whether the offending person is a leader or a scout. The highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve is that of Eagle Scout. A young man completes a major project in order to earn this award. The award symbolizes a very real achievement that has taken years to earn. But, in protest to the Boy Scouts’ policy against admitting homosexuals to the organization, those who have been awarded the prestigious honor have begun returning the eagle pins that represent the award.
In May of 2012, approximately 900 veterans attended a protest rally in Chicago where NATO was holding a two-day summit. Representatives of NATO’s 28 member nations were gathered to discuss plans for ensuring peace in Afghanistan after U.S. troop removal in 2014. Former military personnel attendingthe rally –many of whom had served in Afghanistan or Iraq– dressed in military fatigues and threw their medals into the street to express their opposition to U.S. occupation in the Middle East.
In each instance participants renounced an honor that represented an achievement years in the making or that represented a great sacrifice on the part of the protester. This rejection, however, also served to weaken the authority of the group bestowing the honor, thus making the challengers’ statement all the more effective.
Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.