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Monday, September 17, 2012

Pacifist Leanings

Pacifism: opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; specifically : refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds (Merriam-Webster).

When I opposed the Vietnam War and went to prison rather than submit to induction, I told myself that I did not qualify for conscious objector status because though I was unwilling to fight in this war, I could think of wars I would fight in, such as WWII. Over the years having observed human behavior and conflict, I increasingly appreciate pacifism as an approach to conflict resolution. The tit-for-tat approach to conflict escalates strife while skilled pacifism, again and again, at least in my experience, almost always contributes to conflict attenuation and occasionally resolution. Certainly on a personal level it is observable that when two people are spoiling for a fight, a fight will usually ensue; but if one of the parties proactively seeks to turn away wrath, the results can seem almost miraculous when the peacemaker withholds the anticipated countervailing force. Fairly rapidly the inverse of the dead-end approach is effectuated as the would-be antagonist suddenly comes to realize that the gentle efforts to control the situation by the other party do not threaten his own power but seek to increase it individually, and through co-operation, mutually.

Of course, it is impossible to discuss this issue without the ghosts of Hitler and Neville Chamberlain materializing in one's awareness. Situations where cynicism and hatred utterly consume the perception of one's opponent make overtures to peace useless, or even worse, inflame their passions even more. Some, like Christ and Martin Luther King, Jr., have died because of an unwavering commitment to “loving one's enemy,” and frankly recognized that death was unavoidable or highly probable in the face of an opponent's abject hatred. Such martyrs clearly believed that solid commitment pays off in the long-run despite the immediate costs. Sadly in some sense, I must place myself in the company of the martyrs; for I believe that in the long-run love is more powerful and persuasive than hatred, and that investment in love, even if apparently foolish, is our only hope. I am bound to this conclusion.  I cherish holding on to my faith over and above any worldly success or ambition.

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