A Pacifist's Call to Arms
by Lance Kirby (e-mail: LKirby@liberator.net) [November 20th, 2005]
Let us reason this out as best we can, since reason is our best defense against overreaction. Starting with first principles we might finally begin to clear away the fog of emotion and guide our steps across the bedrock of argument.
Let us define terms. What is a soldier? A soldier, we might agree, is an individual who is either enforced by the state, or volunteers for service to kill and be killed if necessary in a military action, or in whatever situation is deemed by the state to require military action.
“It is easy to follow the herd and take commands, but far harder is it to break away and leave the field of battle and its madness.”
With this in mind we turn to the soldiers themselves. Support is shown in little yellow ribbons we tie to lampposts, or magnetic ones we stick to our cars. Although Republicans and conservatives generally, as a point of rhetoric, deride left leaning people as unpatriotic and unsupportive of the nations troops, we can take this propaganda with a grain of salt. Most people, if they don’t agree with the current administration’s policies still support the military machine that props it up. It’s something like that old (though unbiblical) Christian saying: hate the sin but love the sinner. For me, I am sick of it.
As a Humanistic thinker and a pacifist I find patriotism and militarism equally revolting. If all men are created equal then I do not understand why the error in logic that we glorify one nation above others has never been detected. There are different kinds of pacifists, and I can understand a justification to self-defense when your borders are invaded and your citizens are molested in their homes, but that is clearly not the case here.
9/11 was not an invasion but a desperate act by desperate men, as all acts of terrorism are. Iraq has been proven innocent of any involvement, but still we kill on, now trapped in a cage of our own making. With friendly neighbors on two borders and two oceans filling in the gaps, logistically, which one of the “axis of evil” could invade our shores? Will Iran use its non-existent air force to bomb our cities, or would Iraq have used its non-existent WMD’s? It leads one to wonder why we must have a standing army at all.
I am of course speaking merely as a human being, caring nothing for the practicalities of politics and economics. War is a disease, an illness that can spread like a fever in the right population. It is a sign of despair when a society has no difficulty in stripping people of our shared humanity and turning them into mere caricatures of evil.
But in order to kill on a large scale this is a necessity. You certainly can’t have your army thinking they’ve done something so terrible as massacre men women and children. But that in turn leads us to question the culpability of being a soldier in the first place. Soldiers are usually depicted as poor helpless pawns, each side using them to gain some moral advantage. But when was the last time you called a person armed with a machine gun and rocket launcher a helpless pawn?
If we view soldiers the way their defenders would have them viewed would be an insult. They are always portrayed as mindless drones faithfully following orders without question, always for the glory of their country. But a soldier is no better than the rest of us, or in some cases, (insert Abu Ghraib here) worse. They have free will and can make a choice, it is just with this particular choice they are suddenly, for some reason, raised above scrutiny or ridicule. I deny this.
We defend the killing done by soldiers because they are protecting us, we believe, from enemies from without who would wish to do us harm. But in the modern age such threats are rare, and due to the geographical position of the United States, and friendly neighbors, there can be no sudden invasion of our shores of any consequence.
We berate the French simply because they refused to assist us in appropriating another country, and childishly make rude noises about their defeat by Germany and our subsequent role as knights in shining armour riding in on horse back to save the day. From this it is to be implied that the French are cowardly and that they owe us something in return by becoming our spineless lap dogs. Their very act of rebuffing the world’s only super power would be enough to negate the first assertion, but historically illiterate Americans are also unaware of the horrible tortures inflicted upon members of the French Resistance, and of the brave men and women who died before giving up their comrades.
Secondly, Americans are woefully ignorant of just what a debt we owe to France. Without the assistance of French troops, and especially the French navy there would be no United States to speak of. Though we talk tough today, our own navy was non-existent two centuries ago. Had the French fleet not blockaded the British at Yorktown we might all be singing “God Save The Queen” to this day. It is an irony that the most celebrated democracy of the modern world owes its very existence to the mere whim of a king, and a European king at that.
I have no sympathy for those whose profession it is to kill. Those who claim that my right to dissent descends from a line of broken bodies and bloody fields are as sick as they are blind. My right’s are the rights of humankind and are as Jefferson so aptly stated -- self-evident. They are not the rights of one ignorant band of people who have staked out in the dirt of this world a line of demarcation, but the sovereign rights of every man, woman and child born upon this earth.
Though the warmongers might take this statement as the soul objective of all our operations (what a pregnant word, it conjures up images of blood and could imply the amputation of the people from their liberties) current events in Iraq I believe, to the informed observer prove otherwise. This joke of defending democracy is wearing thin.
As Albert Einstein put it best, “I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.” It is easy to follow the herd and take commands, but far harder is it to break away and leave the field of battle and its madness. To those who have done so already I will proudly salute.
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