Pacifism is like that itch on your back in the place that you can’t reach no matter how hard you try.
I have found only three ways to scratch the itch.
1) I can rub my back against the nearest wall.
Pacifism begins with me. It is important that I take initiative and develop a conviction that peace is the way. But if all I do is rub my back against the nearest wall, then invariably the itch will return.
2) I can extend my reach with a backscratcher.
My conviction must lead me to discover the tools I need to be a better pacifist. Training and education in the ways of peace can extend my capacity to scratch the pacifistic itch.
3) Even better is having someone scratch that place for me. I can point them to the exact spot and they can tell me what is causing the itch.
My personal conviction and a full toolbox are not enough. Pacifism is best practiced within a community. I need to be in relationship with others with this same itch.
Together we can help each other discover the places that need our attention and in so doing become better pacifists.
Then we can give our full attention to this war-weary world and place our healing hands on its big broken back.
Midweek Essays are posted every Wednesday. Please see the publication schedule page for more info.
So I am watching the Nats play the Cards at their annual Memorial Day Ballgame (my birthday gift!).
The guy beside me strikes up a conversation about May birthdays. He’s a May baby too.
We start listing family members who have birthdays in May.
He tells me that today is his father’s birthday, that he would be 90 if he was still living.
I say my grandpa has passed away too.
“He served our country,” he says.
“Mine too,” I reply.
“Air Force,” he tells me.
CPS during World War II, I think.
But I don’t tell my neighbor that. He, like most Americans, has never heard of these forgotten heroes.
But I remember, Grandpa.
How your first born thought you a stranger because you only saw him briefly on furloughs.
How your brother died in an accident at another CPS camp.
How you put miles of fence posts in the ground, day after day, building a country rather than destroying one.
How you wrenched your back so badly that you had to have surgery and it pained you the rest of your life.
How they called you yellow at the factory when you came home.
They don’t remember.
But I do, Grandpa.
The emperor of Japan has been rather subtly cautioning his people to not so easily forget the past.
The current prime minister has been steering the country away from its pacifistic leanings into a more “normal” militaristic realm.
The emperor has used the recent WWII 70th anniversary commemorations to warn that the nation should remember the lessons of an overly aggressive Japan.
Long ago, a prince told his followers to love their enemies.
As one of the few nations of the world with a pacifistic constitution, Japan has offered the world a unique perspective with reference to the folly of war and militarization.
That nation as well as the rest of us would do well to heed the words of an emperor and a prince.