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The Insidiousness of Pacifism23 September 2001
When I was a kid there was another kid named Sullivan (I don't remember his first name -- it's over 40 years ago) who tormented me day after day. He was an ugly kid, his ugliness highlighted by an even uglier disposition, and he was big -- almost six feet. He lifted weights, too. For some reason, or due to some chemical reaction, he hated me from the day he first laid eyes on me in 9th grade.
I was not a nerd or a bookworm, although I was a decent student. I was a good athlete, on a four-year scholarship to a parochial high school. I had no other enemies. In me there were none of the obvious reasons for a bully to do his bullying. I was not a member of an outcast group, and although I only had a few close friends, I was certainly no loner. It was not racism (we were the same race); it was not my religion (we both went to Catholic school); it was not that I wore glasses (at the time I didn't); it was not that I was a wiseass and insulted him in any way (I hadn't noticed him until he noticed me). I have no idea of what the "root cause" of Sullivan's animus was -- it just was.
He'd say things to me under his breathe: "F**k you, Scoblete, and your mother." I'd ignore his taunts. Once I asked him why he was always getting on me and he replied: "Cause you suck."
I turned the other cheek so many times that I, metaphorically, had a neck ache.
On the basketball court Sullivan would try to physically hurt me. But thankfully I was much faster than he and a much better player. This frustrated him no end. Although he did occasionally slam me hard, he never could get in the licks he wanted.As my 9th grade year wore on, Sullivan's verbal assaults increased in ferocity and decibel level. Now, it wasn't just whispered "f**k you and your mother!"; it was shouted ones in the presence of others. Now, there were bumps on the lunch line, and the occasional rock thrown when we were on the field and the priests weren't looking. I often tried to avoid him, but he always seemed to find me; he always seemed to be there.
Big, ugly, powerful Sullivan was getting more and more daring; more and more assaultive. "If I ever get you alone, Scoblete, I'm gonna eat you." Finally, one day he "accidentally" knocked over my lunch tray, spilling my lunch all over me. Although I did nothing at that moment, that was the moment that I knew I had to do something drastic or Sullivan would finally get me alone and, indeed, as he was a tough kid, probably "eat me."
I actually planned what I was going to do and in front of whom. We were in the schoolyard playing a pick-up game of basketball. There were a lot of kids in the schoolyard. Sullivan came along with two of his surly friends and called "winners." That meant whichever three-man team won, Sullivan's team would take them on. My team won. Sullivan and his bunch took the court. I was warmed up and ready. Sullivan was cold, having just come from wherever he had been smoking cigarettes.
"I got you, Scoblete," Sullivan called. That meant he was guarding me. My teammate took the ball out of bounds under the basket and threw it to me past the foul line. The game was on. I didn't wait. I started backing into Sullivan. He started bumping me. I faked a jumper. Sullivan went for the fake and jumped up to block my shot. As he was almost at the height of his jump, I took my jump shot all right -- right into his face with every ounce of strength I had. His nose exploded (he had a big nose) and blood gushed everywhere. Sullivan went down on his back on the blacktop, the wind knocked out of him, his head hitting hard as well. And I came down right on his chest. I didn't care if he was conscious, semiconscious, unconscious or dead, I wailed away at him. In the space of a few seconds, I paid him back for all his torture. I was dragged off him by my friends and his friends.
I had blood all over my hands and my face and, as I recall, I was snarling like some rabid dog. At first it looked as if his friends were going to jump in, but my growling probably stopped them. They lifted Sullivan to a sitting position and he was in no position to stand. I took one last kick at his face, just grazed it, and walked slowly out of the schoolyard.
Probably 40 kids saw the end of that fight. Forty witnesses to the utter destruction of big, ugly Sullivan.
Unlike today, in those days if a kid got into a fight, the parents didn't sue. Sullivan returned to school several days later. He never tormented me again. In fact, he ignored me and I ignored him.
There is no doubt in my adult mind that had I not finally launched my attack on Sullivan when I did, he would have eventually gotten me alone (with a bunch of his friends) and beaten me to a pulp. This was a kid who only understood one thing -- power -- he was more powerful than you, or you were more powerful than him. Period.
The pacifist ethic does not work with the Sullivans of the world. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Osama bin Laden are monstrous versions of Sullivan. They cannot be assuaged ("Gee, Sullivan, why do you hate me so?" "Because you suck!"); they cannot be avoided; they are either more powerful than you or you are more powerful than they. Period.
Had Mahatma Gandhi been Jewish, had the fate of all Jews in the world hinged on his decisions, and had he tried to use his pacifistic philosophy on the Nazis, there would be no Jews in the world today. Had Martin Luther King used "peaceful resistance" in a society with no sense of human values -- again we can reference Nazi Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao Zedong's China, and the bin Ladens of the world -- America would now be a study in shades of white.
For pacifism to work, the society has to have some inner core of shared values with the pacifists, otherwise they are looked upon as dross to be swept away. Obviously, America has had its share of pacifists. The Quakers come to mind. They refuse to fight in any war. In truth, the Quakers survive because others have kept them safe -- died violently so they could live peacefully. Just picture an entire nation of Quakers facing the threat of an advancing Hitler. It's a bloody picture, indeed.
The great playwright, George Bernard Shaw, a pacifist, when asked what he would do if he were Prime Minister and the Nazis entered England, said: "Welcome them as tourists." Witty, funny, and dead wrong. Those "tourists" would have ravaged the country, perhaps even killing old George Bernard himself.
Today, we are seeing the beginnings of an anti-war movement in America, especially among naive college students and their cynical professors. It has been reported that students at some universities are singing the old "all we are saying is give peace a chance" chant. In an ambiguous war such as Vietnam where national interests had to be defined in broad political brush strokes, a "peace movement" could be defended. After all, no one attacked us directly. But an anti-war movement against this war, which has been etched in the brush strokes of innocent blood, cannot be defended. The ones who attacked us are not tourists, they're terrorists.
As Hitler revealed his true plans in Mein Kampf, so bin Laden and other terrorists have told us in their many unambiguous, public statements their plan as well -- they are determined to wipe our way of life off the planet. They believe America is, at heart, a land of cowards. Bin Laden cites our withdrawal from Somalia, after losing "just 18 men," as proof that America is weak. The anti-war folks merely fuel his delusion and embolden him to continue his attacks.
I do not deny that some pacifists are brave men and women. Pacifism is not necessarily a synonym for cowardice, despite the fact that the bin Ladens, Hitlers, Stalins and Zedongs (and the Sullivans) of the world think it is. Many pacifists are willing to die for their beliefs. But in the face of those with no equivalent moral compass, the deaths of brave pacifists are utterly without meaning. Such men and women are not dying so that their children might live. They are dying so that their children might die, also. Clearly, pacifism, while laudatory in some respects, is ludicrous in others. Does anyone really think it is praiseworthy to sacrifice one's life in order to facilitate the sacrifice of other lives as well?
Truly, even Christ's statement, "There is no greater love than this, that a man sacrifice his life for a friend," was never intended to have as a corollary, "so that his friend might die as well." The intent was plain -- so that "his friend might live." Pacifism in the face of monstrous, conscienceless evil is an evil itself as it allows evil to win.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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