Pacifism and Veterans Day

I’m from Wisconsin and outside of Madison and Milwaukee and some of the other college towns it’s populated by G.O.B.s (Good Ole Boys). I grew up camping, fishing, and playing tackle football in the backyard. In two weeks I’ll be north of Highway 8 sitting twelve feet off the ground in a wood framed box with indoor/outdoor carpet stapled to the sides; and if you know what I’m talking about… “you might be a redneck.”

In places like that military service is respected above all else. My grandfather, uncles, cousin, roommates, teammates, co-workers, best friends, and one of my groomsmen have served/are serving; they’re in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

I also grew up a conservative Christian. I supported President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As my faith has evolved and my study of Jesus Christ has deepened I have become a strict pacifist.

When I first made this change in ideals I was worried for a long time about alienating my close friends and family who served in the military. I think Jack Johnson said it best, “…awful thing to make somebody think that they have to choose pushing for peace or supporting the troops…” and I certainly felt that way. How could I oppose war and support service men and women?

I suppose this mindset was worsened by the few servicemen I DID speak to. They were the types of individuals who joined the military to, “Go kill some towel-heads.”

I was liberated from my conflicting feelings by an unlikely source, Douglas MacArthur; the famous American general. Known for winning the Medal of Honor, the WWII campaign in the Pacific, and being quoted as saying “Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons,” MacArthur seems like the last place a pacifist would go to be affirmed.

But General MacArthur isn’t afraid of what most war supporters don’t admit.

First, “You don’t win wars by dying for your country you win wars by making the other (man) die for his.” This fact alone is a baseline fact for my pacifism. Jesus taught that we should love, pray for, and serve our enemies. General MacArthur and I disagree on how to approach an enemy, but at least he can respect the lives of our enemies and fallen soldiers by admitting what the deaths actually mean.

Second, “The soldier, above all others, prays for peace, for it is the soldier that must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” As I have talked to more and more soldiers and past soldiers I have found this to be a much more common attitude among them. Whether it be their support for diplomatic solutions, isolationism, or even a quick end to military action; more soldiers view war as a last resort.

The soldiers whom fall under the category of “warhawk” are the minority, not the majority. Just like the majority of pacifists struggle with the belief of opposing violence and supporting men and women that have made a decision to put their lives on the line for the sake of us all.

I’m a pacifist, but I love and respect my soldiers. So thank you for your sacrifice. If I could have you know anything, please know that my respect for the lives of our enemies does not negate the respect that I have for you.

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