Pacifist NationNo Place for Wimps


What is Pacifist Nation about?

Mission Statement
(Inexcusable pun. Sorry 'bout that.)

Pacifist Nation endeavors to explore how we may bridge the gap between what we profess to believe and how we act, by bringing the subject of pacifism into the mainstream of public discourse.

Just what is pacifism?

Superficially, one may define it as the belief in and practice of solving conflict through non-violent means. One may consider oneself a pacifist even though one might participate in what one considers a "just war." We all compromise our beliefs; doing so does not invalidate them. A committed pacifist, however, will refuse any such participation. But under the skin, pacifism informs all that we are, all that we believe, all that we do. It manifests itself such that one cannot just be for peace. One must be for social and economic justice, for all the freedoms we profess to cherish. We must love our children, honor our parents, and respect all living things, including that which is called Gaia, our Mother. We must allow our pacifism to infuse our lives in a way that mirrors and manifests our relationship with the divine.

Pacifism as a prophylactic

The goal of pacifism is the prevention of war. We are not passivists, as is the citizen who lets the war machine roll on without a peep. We practice our pacifism in how we act in our everyday lives, much as a Jew, Christian or Moslem practices the paramount values demanded by their faith, such as treating people justly and with dignity and forgiveness, throughout the week and throughout the year.

We get pissed off and are outraged, just like regular people. We just use our vocal chords, pen, ballot, etc., rather than our fists or an Uzi.

There cannot be peace without justice

Pacifists are the front line of our nation's defense against war. As much as recognizing the root causes of war and doing something about them, injustice must be recognized and dealt with.

Corollary: There cannot be freedom without responsibility

Well, there can be, and, all too frequently, is. Freedom implies choice; responsibility implies choice with full knowledge of the consequences and acceptance of that responsibility. A pacifist is not necessarily a non-violent person, but one who consciously chooses the path of non-violence. How closely one hews to the path is up to that person. With knowledge of fallibility comes humility, compassion for others' failings, and for their choices as well. One must accept others' choices, made responsibly. If you read this to mean that a pacifist must be pro-choice, then one may begin to understand that one may be anti-abortion yet pro-choice, and to appreciate my joy at encountering pro-life advocates on a vigil against capital punishment outside the gates of San Quentin on an otherwise somber occasion.

Tolerance can only go so far

Pacifist Nation has zero tolerance for racism, bigotry, sexism or homophobia. Pay close attention to that last one. All too few people do, or else fail to make the connection.

Pacifism is not for wimps

Gandhi was not a wimp; nor was Martin Luther King, Jr. or César Chávez. You declare yourself and take the heat, be it verbal abuse, Bull Connor's dogs, prison or death. We're lucky here; we just have to face prison, as did I during the Vietnam war, or endure it, as did my father during WW II. Nazi Germany's pacifists weren't so lucky. We must be grateful for our liberty, but constant vigilance is the price. What happened there can happen again. We have our work cut out for us.

Police and those in the military are not our enemies

We must respect their choice and their willingness to put their lives on the line for us. In turn, they must realize that neither are we the enemy. We are simply warriors in a different arena, trying to make their job a bit easier, or eliminate it altogether.

In defense of Defense

One could argue logically that pacifism doesn't necessarily preclude acting in one's defense. It's even less of a slippery slope than justifying a "just war" and don't think I, as a Jew, haven't grappled with that one into the wee hours. A police officer is within the bounds of the law to commit justifiable homicide. Do I advocate abolishing the police? The answer to that thorny issue is, what might the nature of defense be? Gunless constabulary have been successful before, and in a society that puts our crime statistics to shame. But that begs the Hard Question, and we pacifists can get nervous and defensive when it comes to the Hard Questions, like: For instance, if we all turned pacifist wouldn't we become defenseless? As if! Actually, that's an easy one and I tire of that old whine. Logically, if we are successful, the threat of war will no longer exist. Look. if my goal is to become independently wealthy, do I quit my day job? Hardly. And do I cease striving because I have to earn a living in the meantime? I am but a thread in the fabric of society. The woof may go on policing and soldiering, but this warp is damn well going to keep on keeping on until violence is no longer an image in the pattern. Ouch. Sometimes my rhetoric pinches. Silimile me.

Bottom line: War is hell

We've heard that before. But we romanticize it anyway.

An enemy soldier is just a statistic unless he is our brother. A bombed building is just a picture on the news unless it's the water purifying plant that keeps our infants from falling prey to a host of diseases, or the apartment building we live in. A dead Serbian soldier was someone's son, father or brother, nephew or uncle; a dead Iraqi infant has a mother weeping over its grave, next to its father's. There but for the grace of God go you or I.

Think of your child, brother or sister. Some faceless bureaucrat on the other side may refer to him or her as "collateral damage." We justify such a death at our hands at our own peril.

What nobler calling can there be but to see that such a thing becomes unthinkable by anyone under any circumstances.

I am a pacifist, and proud of it.


“Mankind must put an end to war
    or war will put an end to mankind... *

– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

A Viewer's Response

My very first thoughtful response to Pacifist Nation came from a fellow I met whilst tracking down Mark Twain's, "The War Prayer".

I'll set this down just as he replied, except to say that I concur, my brother, David Reuben, having survived the conflagration aboard the U.S.S. Forrestal during my generation's Big One.

And if the opening scene to "Saving Private Ryan" wasn't harrowing enough for you, go out and rent.... No, buy "Jaws" and check out one of the most powerful, masterfully written, crafted and acted scenes in the history of The Cinema, the one about the U.S.S. Indianapolis ("Eleven hundred and nineteen men went into the water; three hundred and seventeen came out. The sharks took the rest, 30 July, 1945. But we delivered the bomb." –Howard Sackler, uncredited) And somewhere on the roads of this land trucks a Mayflower moving van with a rolling memorial to the men who most horribly lost their lives on those days. R.I.P.

E-mail reply:
Dennis Peterson wrote:

> > When discussing pacifist views it sometimes helps
> to describe the world in its "as built" state which is
> to say, the world as it exists with war. Then pay
> proper notice to the men and women who are the
> cannon fodder of the wise old white male politicians
> who send them into harms way. Soldiers are the first
> victims the failed policy of war and often do heroic
> things for their fellow soldiers. For example, read
> Big Ben Franklin. The men I spoke with while
> writing this wanted no part of a war - but the choice
> was not theirs as it never is. They were for the most
> part just trying to live long enough to get home to
> their families and that sometimes required
> uncommon valor.

'Nuf said.

Well, almost enough.

I'm reminded of a college friend of mine, a conscientious objector who nonetheless allowed himself to be drafted into the Vietnam war. His reasoning was unassailable: were he to take advantage of all that being a middle-class white male makes it a piece of cake to avoid such unpleasantness, one of his black or brown brothers would simply take his place. He felt that that would be blood on his hands.

To my shame, I cannot recall enough of his name to know his fate. I just hope it's not on the Wall.

A braver lad than I.