Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pollyanna or Radical Pacifist?

My conservative friends have been attacking my radical pacifism again. Saying I’m naïve. Calling me a Pollyanna. Who’da thunk I’d have to fight so hard to prove pacifism is a valid way of life.

This time it’s over the fact that I choose not to carry a gun. A gun-loving friend commented in our online political discussion group that liberals often get taken advantage of because they allow their fears to motivate them into turning their lives over to government regulation. A fellow liberal friend of mine countered that it’s fear that motivates our gun-loving friend into carrying a glock on his hip during most of his daily life. Here’s my response to this discussion.

Gun-Loving Friend, regarding your comment "And fear does not motivate me, simply the realization that the world is bad and unarmed citizens are sitting ducks for criminals. Choosing to remain unarmed is purely proof of a Pollyanna-ish outlook." I feel sorry for anyone who thinks "the world is bad". Don't get me wrong. The world if full of horrible, hellish things...war, murder, rape, child sex slavery, American politics, drug stores on every corner but weed dealers in prison, kids having babies because they want someone to love them...You and I both know this list is depressingly long.

But because bad things happen in this world does not make this world bad. I'm currently reading the book Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean. I saw the movie years ago and it brought me to tears. One of the most emotionally intense movies I've ever seen. It's about this nun who befriends a death row inmate which leads to the evolution of her various views on the death penalty, socioeconomic inequities, and our criminal justice system.

She tells him she wants to be there during his execution.

"He says, 'No, I don't want you to see it.'

I say, 'I can't bear the thought that you would die without seeing one loving face. I will be the face of Christ for you. Just look at me.'

He says, 'It's terrible to see. I don't want to put you through that. It could break you. It could scar you for life.'

I know that it will terrify me. How could it not terrify me? But I feel strength and determination. I tell him it won't break me, that I have plenty of love and support in my life.

'God will give me the grace,' I tell him.

He consents. He nods his head. It is decided. I will be there with him if he dies."

This is a convicted rapist and murderer Sister Helen is showing such love and kindness.

That is strength.

That is what human beings are capable of if we're surrounded by a foundation of "plenty of love and support in [our] lives." Helping the least of these among us. I have tremendous admiration for a person who faces such horror and refuses to succumb to the belief that the world is done for, the world is bad.

Shrugging off the world as "bad" indicates a doubt that it's possible to improve. A doubt that it's worth improving.

The world is not perfect. People are not perfect. Life is messy and tragic and unkind. Sometimes. And sometimes it's sublime. Babies are born. People fall in love. Friends share a laugh. Trespassers are forgiven.

I don't carry a gun because I don't want to shoot someone. I know, I think I'm sweet and ignorant and someone who criminals will take advantage of. Think what you will. But I have seen examples of peace and love overcoming violence and hate far more often than I have witnessed violence stopping violence. I know. If my loved ones, my daughter, my sweet baby, were being harmed I would react violently. But I don't want to live my daily life as if at any moment I'll have to use violence to protect my daughter. I choose peace because I want to live peacefully.

Another real-world hero of mine is Julio Diaz. This man lives among us. He practices peace.

That is strength.

Yes, I acknowledge that some people are sociopaths, incapable of rehabilitation. But the vast majority of people who do bad things, including you, including me, are not bad people. Just sometimes lazy, sometimes stupid, sometimes confused, sometimes desperate, sometimes emotionally unwound. Whatever reason, people do bad things to each other. Yes. But that doesn't mean we have to live our lives at that level. Human beings are capable of amazing things. Including loving our enemies as ourselves. This "Golden Rule" or "Ethic of Reciprocity" has been taught in many great religions and philosophies throughout human history. By our ancestors. Who went on living their daily lives choosing peace. And survived long enough to pass it on.

I'm sorry if someone thinks it's naive to choose to live peacefully. That shows me someone who has given up on the goodness in this world. Someone who chooses to focus on fear and hatred rather than love and peace.

Don’t get me wrong. I'm a civil libertarian. I don't want to shoot people, but I also don't want to take away your guns. I just ask that you please remove your weapons when you enter my house. And please remove your preconceived notions of just how strong radical pacifism can be.