How I Became a Pacifist

Actually I don’t really know how I became a pacifist.  Looking back I held this view by the time I was 14 years old.  I was not aware that my feelings had a name until much later.

I found an audio file from the one time I testified before a Congressional committee.  This was for a hearing for a piece of legislation that has been kicking around Washington for about half a century.  It is called the Peace Tax Fund.  I needed to refer to it in an email discussion and found they have a website. and on that site there are four audio files, one of which is mine from that hearing.  In that speech I told of my pacifism.  You can find it on that website (I have no idea how to post it here).

One of the books that influenced me as a teenager was “Heavenly Discourse” by C.E.S. Wood, a wonderful satiric work.  I’m not sure why it was in my mother’s library, but it is a witty and clever book about the issues of the day – 1927.  It consists of dialogues among God, Jesus, Satan, and a wide variety of authors and activists like Mark Twain, Robert Ingersoll, Rabelais, and many others.  This book is long, long out of print, but Amazon has third party sellers who have it.

In the chapter “A Pacifist Enters Heaven” (which I guess introduced me to the term) we find the following bit of dialogue.

From A Pacifist enters Heaven—in bits: 

BATTERED SOUL: I’m a pacifist.

GOD: A what?

BATTERED SOUL: A pacifist. I believe in Jesus and peace.

GOD: So you are a Christian?

BATTERED SOUL: O, no. I really do believe in peace.

Somewhere in the book someone says that the soldiers sent into combat believe they are fighting for peace or freedom or their nation, but the reality is that this is a lie.  They are sent into combat for purposes that are advantageous to the government and profitable to war profiteers.

In a sophomore world history class, when we got to World War I, I repeated this idea.  About two periods later, between periods, I was backed up against a wall by a group of ROTC students in uniform.  They threatened to beat me up if I ever defamed soldiers again by saying such a thing.  I knew then I was onto something.

I have thought since that these boys, when they first became men, were probably sent to fight in Viet Nam.  Some, no doubt, did not come back whole in mind or body and others did not come back alive.  That thought haunts me.

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One response to “How I Became a Pacifist”

  1. Richard says :

    After reading your post, I purchased Heavenly Discourse. What an amazing read! It was so easy to substitute yesterday’s demagogues and scoundrels with current ones. If only the book was still in print; how many cages it would rattle!

    I urge all who see this post to read it; there are many copies available online. I purchased mine from AbeBooks and paid $15.

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