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Past pacifists are today’s heroes

Posted: May 5, 2009 9:24 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 4:30 a.m.
The other day I bumped into a man at a social event who said he read my articles in The Signal. I made the mistake of thinking that because he read my stuff, he agreed with my essential position. Wrong! I don’t recall what brought it on, but the man was adamant we needed to flatten Iran, leaving it a desolate area devoid of human life.

His views on international relations so differed from mine that I could only walk away stunned at the chasm between us.

I suspect a lot of people may share his views regarding militancy and war. Some openly espouse them while others keep them hidden inside realizing the toxic potency of such views if they were really expressed.

I am a pacifist — and while pacifism may not be a practical matter to many, it is life affirming to me.

Pacifism echoes the basic message of all spiritual thought. While organized religion itself has been the cause of much turmoil and war, still, its tenets espouse practices that all of us at a deep level know create a better, more peaceful world. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and the legion of similar principles we can all easily embrace provide freedom for each of us to become our best selves, living at our highest levels.

Consider the opposing view that has us destroying those with whom we believe threaten our existence or way of life or core principles.

If we were to take this view seriously, most relationships would be on the table for violent retribution when they inevitably dare stray from our treasured beliefs.

Once violence becomes a generally accepted solution for conflict resolution, things can spin outside the realm of reason quickly.

Witness, after all, we’re six years into an unnecessary and ill-advised war because war was seen “as the better answer.”

On a planetary scale, we know pacifists offer the best vision and future for our children: Jesus, who achieved what most of us cannot grasp by embodying love; Gandhi, through negotiations and repeated fasting brought the British to their knees became a main force for India’s independence; Martin Luther King Jr. led a nation’s awareness of the wrongs of racism; and Mother Teresa who quietly healed thousands of the dispossessed.

My favorite is Henry David Thoreau. Poet, writer, intellectual, naturalist, he connected us with nature and what is best within us. All of these pacifist souls are heroes.

As alternatives to those above, I doubt few parents choose the following “leaders” to inspire their children. These men relied on militarism and force to achieve their objectives: Hitler was going to conquer the world and killed 6 million Jews and as many as 9 million of his own countrymen; dictator Augusto Pinochet killed at least 3,000 of Chile’s population; and, Laotian dictator Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge killed 1.2 million of his country’s people. And on and on it goes.

The world’s recent tragedies result from seeing people as objects rather than reflections of us. The Sudanese government commits genocide by forcing the NGO volunteers out of Darfur while Zimbabwe’s dictator runs the country into the ground and dispatches the opposition. These men have warred on their own people with devastating results that only diminishes humanity and provides no upside.

Still, wide opportunities exist for “war as an answer” solutions to the problems that we think vex us. I wonder if my friend mentioned above would like to bomb these “problems” out of existence? Maybe he would erase the Arabs in Palestine, certainly flatten North Korea, perhaps adding Russia and China for a good start. No end in sight once you get going. America has advanced to push-button gunboat diplomacy and bombing as problem resolution.

We know the world is not a place overburdened with peace and love. Exactly the opposite is true. It seems to be a world of turmoil and hatred.

Perhaps this atmosphere is what gives increasing rise to the need for holding high the ideal of pacifism.

And in an age requiring fiscal restraint and cutbacks, it’s prudent to remember that pacifism as the solution comes cheap compared to budget-busting bombers and body bags.

Phil Rizzo is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port” appears Wednesdays in The Signal. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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