A Pacifist's Regret

A Pacifist's Regret

A Story by bob, small b. aka invs

thoughts on the violence and rioting in american cities

I have been a pacifist since i first began really considering such things back in high school. Back then, my convictions were based on religious grounds. I simply believed that pacifism was the system of belief that most closely aligned with the teachings of Jesus. That was of utmost importance to me. I couldn't see how "love your neighbor as yourself" or "turn the other cheek" could be reconciled with violence toward others. So i became a pacifist. This was not an easy position to hold when the VietNam war was at its peak and the draft was in full effect. I attempted to get a Conscientious Objector deferment from the draft, but was rejected because i didn't belong to a church that backed up my position. I managed to somehow avoid the draft in spite of a low lottery number. But all of this is just a background for the point i'm going to try to make in this little article.

The point i'm going to regretfully attempt to make is that pacifism never changed a damn thing. I'm not saying that it can't be a tool to be used to bring about change, but it's not the instrument of change. Violence is the instrument of change. What brought all this pondering up lately has been the death of yet another black man at the hands of police and the violence that has ensued since then. There is an uproar from some decrying the violence and as a pacifist i must say this is not the route i would take in response to racism, but pacifism is rare in this world. And i would argue that without rage, without uproar, without violence nothing would ever change politically. Without the subjugation of the Native Americans, Europeans would not have dominated North America. Without the war against Mexico, Texas, Arizona and several other states would presently be part of Mexico, not the USA. Without the civil war, slavery would have continued for who knows how much longer. Without the unions and violent strikes and more than a handful of massacres, we never would have had the 40 hour work week, paid vacations, health insurance, and many other things we take for granted today. Without the televised marches of the civil rights movement where we watched women and children being attacked by fire hoses and police dogs, public sentiment would not have pushed for the changes toward equal rights under the law. Without milllions of people taking to the streets to protest the Vietnam war, and seeing armed response to them, the war would have continued. I believe the killing of 4 students at Kent State University by National Guard troops was a real turning point in the world's perception.

Okay. I can almost hear some of you saying "What about Jesus?", "What about Gandhi?", "What about Martin Luther King, Jr?". Surely they made changes as pacifists. Well, maybe. But was it them, or the violent actions taken against them that made the changes in the world? Violence can create change in two ways. First, as a direct result of the violence. Punch someone in the nose and it has a direct effect. The second way violence can create change is when people are made aware of how horrible that violence actually is, changing public opinion and pressuring the powers that be for change. Jesus' perfect life provoked violence against him and without his execution, there could be no redemption or hope for the future. Gandhi's strength was to show how non-violence looked in practice and the violence it provoked became so outrageous that the tide of popular opinion turned in his direction. I've already mentioned the civil rights movement and how the violence against it is what brought about the change.

So we've got violence in the streets once again. Police stations on fire. Riots and looting. And i say, okay, if this is what's it's going to take to make cops quit killing black men, i hope it works. They tried taking a knee to raise awareness and that, too , was unacceptable. Please understand that i would never encourage violence. I think peaceful means are by far preferable. But we live in a world full of people, and people are flawed and stubborn and not easily changed. We're 60 years past the civil rights era and black men still have to be afraid someone will call the police for them being in the wrong neighborhood, or they might be stopped by the police and accidentally killed. I'd say most peaceful means of bringing about change have already been tried. What we're seeing now are birth pains. Same as we saw in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of the 60s.

So this is my regret. That pacifism is fine as a personal philosophy. I choose to turn the other cheek. I choose to shun violence in my life. But as far as society goes, i've given up thinking that there's much hope for change other than through violence.

© 2020 bob, small b. aka invs

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An interesting and thought-provoking write. My paternal grandfather fought in World War One, and my father fought in World War Two, and history says that they fought on the side of justice and freedom. But I am glad that I never had to take up arms. I would hate to have to kill anyone. Sometimes wars (or civil unrest) cannot be avoided, and often the lines of right and wrong can get blurred. We have to stick with our convictions, and answer to our own conscience, whatever our religious or spiritual beliefs may be. World peace may well be just a dream - at least without divine intervention!

Posted 8 Months Ago

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Added on May 30, 2020
Last Updated on May 30, 2020


bob, small b. aka invs
bob, small b. aka invs


my name's bob. small 'b'. a hold-over from my e.e. cummings stage of writing. i just never went back to reclaim the capital B. or the capital letters to begin paragraphs and sentences. no significance.. more..


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