Letter to Editor, TownHall.com: "Be careful with words"

October 1, 2001

I caution Michael Kelly to be careful with words. 

Reason is not pacifism, which Michael Kelly's September 26, 2001 editorial, "Pacifists are not serious people," perceives as "immoral... on the side of [] murderers, and [] on the side of letting them murder again."  Where Mr. Kelly deviates from many who consider themselves peace-seeking people is the concept of "eye-for-an-eye."  The killers must be found, jailed, and understood.  But killing an innocent-for-an-innocent makes us all monsters.

These heinous actions were by people who, for one reason or another, had learned to hate the United States.  It would be wise to try to understand why.  Perhaps the propaganda of a warped cleric has exacerbated these people's anger.  But why were they angry in the first place?

A reasonable person whose next-door neighbor has decided to bulldoze a path across one's yard might already know why the neighbor is so upset.  Undoubtedly U.S. leaders also know why some of these people may be ready to kill themselves in such an insane statement of rage.  Perhaps they grew up in Lebanon, where U.S. warplanes flown by Israeli military bombed refugee camps for a whole generation.  Perhaps they saw members of their family die in Iraq, Bosnia, or Kosovo, where U.S. depleted uranium munitions still clutter and irradiate the land.  Perhaps their baby sister or brother starved to death in Iraq, where U.S. planes and ships keep an embargo in place and every few days drop some bombs on people.  A reasonable person might think it would be kinder and more useful to parachute crates of food and medicine, and VCR's and videotapes, to counter the propaganda of Saddam Hussein.

I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that there are reasons people are so pissed off, and there are ways to fix that problem.  We just have to learn how to be good neighbors instead of bullies.

Now, I don't consider myself a strict "pacifist."  If someone strikes me, I'll try to find the least painful way to subdue him or her.  I do consider myself a peacemaker, and am particularly intrigued by the concepts proposed by Jesus at his Sermon on the Mount: 

Mat 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Mat 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
Mat 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Mat 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Mat 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Mat 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
I've gone so far as to test these suggestions, when confronted by hostile people (which happens fairly regularly, since I'm an active peacemaker).  And I've found that, when I stop reacting and start asking questions, people calm down.  Because, whatever the message, people want to be heard.  And who's been listening, here in our fat country, to the words and needs of these people?  Who's been trying to truly fix the problems?  And how many orphans are there out there who have decided they'd rather die than continue living in hell?

Mr. Kelly's announcement, "Pacifists see themselves as obviously on the side of a higher morality, and there is a surface appeal to this notion, even for those who dismiss pacifism as hopelessly naive," causes one to wonder whether he thought Jesus was hopelessly naive, or here to warn us about changing our ways, or else.  Certainly the "or else" has begun.  Let's not make things worse.  As Mr. Kelly rightly described it, "Two wrongs don't make a right; violence only begets more violence."

Mr. Kelly claims, "The American pacifists wish the Americans to not fight."  Having read reams of emails from peace activists all over the country, the message that has evolved is "Seek Justice, Not Revenge."  Catch the killers and prosecute them.  And start dropping food and medicine near the communities of Afghanistan, Iraq, and every other country where Osama bin Laden's henchmen are sowing seeds of hate.  Teach the people that Americans don't want to kill them, nor do we want them to kill us.  We must find another way.

That is one peacemaker's position, and it is not evil.


Ellen Thomas
Proposition One Committee
PO Box 27217, Washington DC 20038
202-462-0757 -- fax 202-265-5389
prop1@prop1.org  --  http://prop1.org


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