Sunday, December 25, 2005

Parrish on the Ultimate Act of Courage

Geov Parrish wrote an excellent article, "Heroism With a Difference", in last week's Seattle Weekly. He discusses the plight of the four members of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) who were taken hostage in late November.

Here's an excerpt:
"America's right-wing echo chamber has been having a field day with the CPT kidnappings -- —sneering, implicitly or directly, that the peace activists had it coming and were, at best, foolhardy idiots for wandering into a situation where they had no business to be. But they had every business being there. In the blizzard of kidnappings and both criminal and war-related violence plaguing Iraq, the lives of four Westerners are of no great consequence; but even with the massive scale of Iraq's violence, people die one at a time, and lives are saved that way, too. In the three years it has been in Iraq, CPT has saved countless lives through its work.

For citizens of a country like Canada, Britain, or the U.S. to renounce their comfortable lives and willingly walk unarmed into such a setting, fully knowing that by their very citizenship they are prime targets for deadly violence, takes more courage than is ever demonstrated by most soldiers, who usually are cocooned on their bases, surrounded by all the weaponry and protection in the world. Such a commitment takes not recklessness or foolhardiness but a deep and abiding belief in the sanctity of all life and a willingness to work to save the lives of others, even as one's own life is endangered.

These are exactly the traits that we celebrate soldiers for -- the willingness to risk everything for a higher ideal and, ultimately, peace. It's a sad commentary on our martial society that when people take such risks but kill (and kill innocents) for the sake of peace, they're considered heroes. When a few lonely, brave souls work toward the same objectives without the use of force, they are widely ignored, derided, and considered fools."

While I certainly agree that a soldier can perform heroic acts, such acts take on a greater significance when performed by someone who willfully chooses to disdain violence.

The natural human response to pain and threat -- as witnessed in children on any playground -- is to respond in kind. Somebody calls you a name and so you call them two names in return. Somebody pushes you in the back and you retaliate by pushing AND punching them twice as hard.

Pacifists choose, through intestinal fortitude, to not return a tit for a tat. To live in such a manner requires great insight, strength AND courage. As noted in my previous entry, this is the way Jesus, Gandhi, King and many others chose to live their lives.

Such people should be saluted, not denigrated. They represent the conscience of humanity.

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