Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hats Off

Yesterday, a topic arose on my favorite social networking site, the thread quickly spiraling like wildfire unbeknownst to me.  The subjects:  war and peace and politics.  Just one is loaded enough to clear a room, let alone the combination of the three.  I added a thoughtful but hasty reply, but have been chewing on it ever since.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a pacifist, even before I knew what the word meant.  From the core of my being, I feel violence is wrong.  The first time I saw a neighbor kid get punched in the face, my guts wrenched from that skull-smacking-bone-on-bone sound, and I thought I would throw up right there in the front yard where I stood.  I might have been eleven or twelve years old, and now I am thirty-one; so many years and I remember it like it was yesterday.  As I grew, I allied myself with leaders and politicians who also shared this viewpoint, that violence and wars as unnecessary evils.  Today, when I hear news of violence and bloodshed, it really breaks my heart and I wish for peace and understanding for those involved.

For my undergraduate commencement day at Oklahoma State in 2004, the scheduled speaker was an Iraq war general, Tommy Franks.  I have opposed the "War on Terror" and the USA war in Iraq and Afghanistan from its' beginning in 2001.  It has never made sense to me to fight violence with more violence; this is akin to smacking your child and telling him not to hit.  It doesn't make logical sense.  It also destroys and maims real people.  So, I did want to attend the ceremony, because I was proud of my accomplishments, but I did not support the invitation of the speaker.  I chose to use a non-violent, respectful form of protest by writing the words, "NO WAR" on top of my graduation cap.   I did not want to disrupt the day for all the other graduates and their families, but I did feel I had to show my disdain.

My friend Rudy, who is a fellow artist and alumnus from OSU, sat next to me during the ceremony.  We enjoyed a pacifist camaraderie during General Franks' speech, and have kept in touch over the years.  Recently, he was really upset by my support of President Obama for the DNC because of his history of warmongering.  He feels like I have taken off my hat, that I no longer support peace.  At first, I was shocked, and a little dismayed, but the accusation has struck a chord within me.  Are these things true?   Have I become hardened or discouraged, or distracted by more pressing things in my life?  What do I value and hold dear?  Working in rural RSA did harden and embolden me to things which I used to be very sensitive and shy, but did not turn me off human suffering.  If anything, I feel that my passions have increased, and even become more directed than they were when I was a younger person.  Now, I have a much clearer idea of how life works for many in the world, can put a face to the word, because I've put the rubber to the road.  I would say that peace is an abstract idea, a goal, and to get there takes many roads.  I more closely identify myself on a specific road, but always with the end goal in mind.  Helping educate a child is a path to peace.  Rearing your son to be a respectful person is a road to peace.  Volunteering to clean up trash in your neighborhood is a road to peace.  With different jobs come different hats.  My job as a formal student is finished, so I guess I did take off that hat.  Currently, my big job is mother and that hat changes on an hourly basis, it seems.  It is a much less defined role, and certainly less visible than that of a university student, but it is not less important.

Maybe I'm not as fired up and willing to outwardly protest war as I was years ago, but that does not mean I support it.  I certainly will raise my son to respect human life, just as I do.  I want to lead by example that we all have responsibilities and rights, and we should use our gifts accordingly. I probably should better educate myself about President Obama, and other leaders I choose to support, even in the small ways, because somebody is always watching.  It doesn't make sense for a pacifist to support a warmonger, even if he has done other good things for the country.  I do and always will support voter registration, which is not partisan, and that is what I did to show my support for the President.  I feel it is a huge right that should not be taken for granted, because it allows each person to actively be involved in their government.  I also support community, which is another reason I chose to volunteer for the DNC in Charlotte, my "backyard."  In summary, this has been a good chance to re-evaluate where I stand, who and what I support, and to think about life outside mothering an infant, which can be all-consuming at times. 



    1. Thanks, Tuck. I listened to an interview of neil young about this book. Probably pretty good