reply to living resistance, part one: heroes

War-resister blogger Dave Ward says he is neither coward nor hero. Obviously I don't think war resisters are cowards. And frankly, I think the people who call them cowards are idiots. I won't address that particular idiocy in this post. I'm going to ask redsock to guest-post on that topic in part two of this post.

But it was interesting for me to read that DW also doesn't like being called a hero.
At least once, whenever I talk to a group of people about the path that led me here, someone utters the word "hero" as if it were a compliment.. I cringe every time I hear it. Just as I'm no coward, I'm no hero, either. Deciding to shed my uniform and walk away from the military wasn't a heroic act. It was an enormously painful experience for me, and I agonized about it for - literally - months. For those months, I continued to execute my orders and support my unit. I continued to give orders that would result in the deaths of innocent civilians in numbers that still keep me awake at night. The thought that truly hurts me is that, for all that time, I knew better. I knew what I should do months before I actually did it. And I was never even remotely concerned about it until it was staring me in the face. Only through being present during the actual commission of war crimes was I able to realize what was wrong in my military service. I still feel like I was forced into taking action, and really had no other choice than to refuse further service. I simply couldn't live with myself anymore. I can honestly tell you if there had been any other way to not participate in that anymore, I'd have taken it. If there had been any easier way to stop it, I'd have done it. I was no hero, I just ran out of options.

I can appreciate this. A young woman once told me I was a hero of hers. I felt completely ridiculous. I was just living my life.

Few people consider themselves heroes for making moral choices. When someone jumps in a river to save a drowning stranger, they are always hailed as a hero, and what do they always say? I'm not a hero, I just did what anyone else would have done.

In fact, choosing what's right over what's expedient or over what is expected of us - when what is expected is wrong - should not be heroic. It should be commonplace. It should be merely human.

Unfortunately, moral choices are sometimes in short supply. Expediency, profit, short-term thinking, self-preservation narrowly defined - these often seem thick on the ground. So when people do the right thing despite a high risk of harm to themselves we often see them as heroes.

DW implies that serious peace activists who support the cause of US war resisters in Canada are heroes. This is flattering, but embarrassing. I work for peace, I study peace, I think about peace and how we can create a more peaceful world. It takes time and effort, but it is also a joy, and my passion. My activism presents little risk to me, and when there is some slight risk, I welcome the opportunity to test my commitment.

The war resisters have done something better, something braver - and something that actually makes a difference. First, they said no to war. They said no to the mightiest military institution the world has ever seen. But it's more than that.

War resisters bring us the gift of truth: first-hand experience of the injustice of war. They give us the gift of example, by showing other military people that resistance is possible, and by showing what moral courage looks to anyone with the brains and compassion to recognize it. And the US war resisters in Canada have given us the opportunity to fight for the Canada we want to live in, a Canada that reflects our values. They've given us a concrete way to work for peace.

The men and women who "ain't gonna study war no more" inspire me every day. Dave Ward may not like it, but war resisters everywhere are my heroes.

No comments: