Saturday, March 11, 2006

JEANNE AT BODY AND SOUL writes about the death of Tom Fox, the Quaker peace activist who traveled to Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams and who was abducted in November, along with three other members of CPT, by an until-now obscure terrorist group called The Swords of Righteousness Brigade.

Jeanne makes the point that those of us who oppose the Iraq war are quick to express outrage at the horrors being committed in Iraq and elsewhere with our tax dollars and our implied consent; but when people like Tom Fox and his fellow Christian peace activists come along to actually put religious values of peace and love into practice in the midst of war, we don't take the opportunity to educate ourselves about them; or to write and talk about them to others.

We hear so much about the horrible things Americans are doing in Iraq, and most of us respond with anger at what's being done in our name. All of us, those who think everything can be solved with more killing, and those who know it can't, but don't know what else to do, desperately need to learn more about a man who didn't just believe that violence was the wrong way, but that peacemaking was an active -- and dangerous -- pursuit.

I was sad to see that most of the blog writing about Tom Fox's death came from right-wing blogs. I skimmed a few. Some make an attempt to straddle a line between hostility and compassion. A few don't bother, and go straight to hostility. Maybe it was the effect of reading Mr. Fox's own words this morning, with his constant admonitions not to let anger take over, but instead of getting mad at those people, I kept noticing how many people said, in various ways, "I don't understand pacifists..."

No. I don't think I do either -- even though I am far closer to being one (and moving closer every day) than any of those people sneering at the death of someone they consider, at best, a fool. Most of us can barely understand the courage of a soldier, how can we understand the far greater, nearly divine, courage of unarmed warriors?

I skimmed some of those right-wing blogs Jeanne mentions, and it seems to me that one of the biggest misunderstandings about pacifism, or peace activism, among people who believe in war as an effective way to oppose evil, is the idea that pacifism means doing nothing, refusing to take action in the face of wrongdoing. Of course, that is a completely false notion. The clearest and one of the best-known examples is the U.S. Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s. The evil that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his followers confronted in the American South was certainly equal to the evil of terrorism -- in fact, it was terrorism, committed on a daily basis for a century after the end of slavery, against black Americans. Think of Emmett Till. Think of "Strange Fruit" -- a song written by a Jew (Abel Meeropol) and made famous by Billie Holiday. That was one of the most intractable evils in human history; and it was conquered by confronting it peacefully, nonviolently, but without ignoring or fleeing from it.

This is a very difficult concept to believe in. It seems counterintuitive. I guess that's why the left side of the blogosphere has to become better at noticing and writing about people like Tom Fox and what they are about.

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