I was on a domestic flight not long ago and the pilot announced over the intercom that a Congressional Medal of Honor winner was on board.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is our country’s highest award for courage in military action. The man, who was sitting right in front of me, had killed a number of the enemy protecting some of our wounded soldiers. His story was miraculous, and truly awe inspiring. The people on the plane gave him a cheer and a round of applause. However, I realized that we were glorifying war, death and violence when we praised these heroic men and never the conscientious observers who worked for peace and refuse to fight.
I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s and witnessed the carnage that characterized the Vietnam conflict. This conflict divided our nation, and there were civilians who died fighting for peace and others who were jailed for avoiding the draft. Few of those pacifists are remembered today. Many people view these men as cowards. I think of them as just as heroic as the men who fought and killed for their country.
We all want peace, or at least the men and women who would be called on to fight for our country want peace.
The politicians and executive branch with political agendas and no risk of service in harm’s way are the ones who engage in warfare. Ulterior motives abound… Few civilians want or have the resources to wage war on a global scale. Make no mistake, there are absolutely no threats to our security in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or anywhere else for that matter.
Seriously, does anyone really think that any of these countries intends to invade us?
What I would like to see is pacifism being honored as much as war heroes.
The people in my generation who fled to Canada to avoid shedding blood deserve our thanks just as much as the men who fought and died. Honestly, did anyone really believe that the Vietnamese were a real threat to our national security? Does anyone really believe that Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait or any other third world country pose a real threat to our national security?
I am just as appreciative for those who fought and died to protect this nation where speech is free and we can sleep at night. I am also grateful for every man and woman who stood up for their convictions and said “I am not going to fight in this, or any war.”
If anything, history has shown us that our leaders have motivations other than national security in sending troops into harm’s way. I can only assume it’s natural resources (oil) or other political factors that motivate us to fight on foreign soil these days. I still haven’t figured out why we invaded Iran if there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction as we were lead to believe.
I believe that we glorify war and criticize peace.
We have it all wrong.
We claim that we have to fight to protect our way of life. I ask anyone to prove to me that any of the armed conflicts we have engaged in, in the last 60 years, protected our way of life. None of these conflicts were defensive—they were all aggressive in nature, seeking to steal assets and natural resources of the countries we invaded.
The domino theory posed by the Eisenhower administration to justify invading foreign soil was pure nonsense. I believe that the conscientious objectors knew this and refused to fight for such hypocritical ideology. It takes just as much courage to face ostracism and persecution as it does a bullet.
So I ask you, who are the real heroes?
The ones who fought and died for some political gain orchestrated by our executive elite, or the ones who stood up for their conscience and refused to fight.
I wish that we could have a day honoring those who refused to fight in violent conflicts. They were just as brave, and sacrificed just as much, as the medal winners. You can get a list of conscientious objectors and more information about conscientious objectors at Couragetoresist.org and Wikipedia.
Whatever your beliefs about combat service, if we are going to bring peace to this planet, we need to start recognizing the people who refuse to fight as well.
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Catherine Monkman