Stand By Our Troops?

I am a revolutionary pacifist. I believe in the absolute and unmitigated wrongness of conflict and violence and that it should be completely eliminated and dismissed from human society, that it is a thing best left as a reminder of barbaric times in the distant past, not a reflection of the modern world. I am well aware that this is not in keeping with the rise of tribalism, nationalism and force as determiner of right that have become systemic diseases of the contemporary world.

But what comes to mind frequently is this notion of military glory and respect. I am consistently accused of lumping in soldiers, sailors and air crews with criminals and that I don’t support the brave people of the national (or even the United Nations) military forces. I promise you, though, that while the first is in many ways true, the second is far from the case.

In many ways, a soldier is performing the same task as a murderer but, as with all things in our existence, it is not that simple. It is just as reprehensible that there is violence and death and just as necessary that it be ended regardless of who is perpetrating the act. But the motivation is quite different. A murderer may be an irrational person or completely cold of emotion but they are acting out of a desire to kill. A solider, however, is generally not motivated by that particular personal desire but another one — a desire to serve. And that is certainly an honorable, respectable goal. In the case of someone in the military, it is not their personal motivation that is typically at fault — it is their government that is leading them down a path of violence, hatred and death.

I have absolute respect for those who are prepared to sacrifice themselves in the service of those who cannot defend themselves but there is a serious problem with this. If you fight, someone else is likely to fight back. And then you have a continuing circle of violence. We must end the cycle. If we are ever to be the peaceful people that we are meant to be, we cannot continue to perpetrate violence against others, be them human or otherwise.

So while I certainly stand by the soldiers in national armies and the sailors of national navies, I have nothing but disdain for the governments that use them. You believe that you are supporting your military when you fight for the delusional and misplaced tribal identity but you are not. You wish them to fight and expect them to die for no purpose other than violence. I, however, wish them to live. To put down their weapons and walk away.

I seek their lives as respected people, sacrosanct entities in nature who deserve to live. You seek their actions that are likely to lead to their deaths. Who is supporting the troops more, you who encourages them to die or me who encourages them to have a long and free life in an age of peaceful resistance to all violence?

So the next time you feel proud of your military, think for a moment how many young people you are condeming to yet another round on the wheel of conflict, violence and death. If you don’t want to see violence on your playgrounds, in your streets, between your children and others, set an example that violence of any sort is unacceptable, that it is a thing of the past that we will no longer allow in our vision of humanity.

We can end human suffering if we walk away from violence and accept each other as equals, with equal rights of safety, of movement, of access to food and water and healthcare. If we don’t seek profit and ownership but instead serve others rather than fighting them, we will be the example we wish our children would follow into the future.

Stand by our troops, certainly. But don’t stand by them to fight. Violence is always a lost cause. The only way to win is not to fight. Stand by them as they walk away from violence and say no. Respect them enough to help them live, not condemn them to die.