One day when I wore a t-shirt that said "War is Costly, Peace is Priceless", a young man who I knew to be in the US National Guard challenged me on it, calling it my "political statement".
I didn’t know it was political to state the obvious. War IS Costly. Peace IS priceless. Who could argue with this? Why is this necessarily political? If my t-shirt had said "Death is Ugly, Life is Beautiful" would that be political too?
A couple months ago several motorists gave my 8-year-old daughter the finger for holding up a sign in downtown Omaha that said "Support Our Troops, Bring Them Home".
What kind of people give an 8-year-old the finger? What kind of people disagree with bringing home the troops? What kind of people think war, any war, is better than peace?
Recently the US Postal Service delivered anonymous hate mail to my home. It came from a woman who had gone to the trouble of looking up our rural Midwest address after learning that our family was involved in setting up an exhibit called "Eyes Wide Open" in Washington DC three months ago. This exhibit is a display of empty boots and shoes as a memorial to military and civilian war deaths. It is sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). AFSC is run by the Quakers, a notoriously pacifist religious group. Most Quakers are, by nature and by definition, some of the most non-threatening people you will ever want to meet.
The letter comes from the mother of a marine who was recently killed in Iraq. The writing has all the hallmarks of an irrational author, with vague threats and excessive capitalization and rambling, emotion-filled ungrammatical sentences. And that is exactly what makes it so disturbing. How would it be to suddenly find out that some one you don’t know but who is potentially unbalanced and very, very angry with you, has your name and address, but you don’t have hers? It sets up a scary scenario. In my own case, I am isolated miles from any town with two small children and a husband who travels for work. I’m sure it is nothing to worry about, but it gives one pause.
Ironic that pacifism can generate such hatred and fear. Especially here in rural red-state America, where bible-belters wear their Pro-Life beliefs on their sleeves, and go to church at least twice weekly to pray to the most well-known pacifist in history, Jesus himself. Yet these same life-lovers whole-heartedly support the Iraq War.
If my family has paid for our pacifist beliefs by risking animosity from strangers and even friends, so be it. But there is another price.
Peace activism exposes many people who purport patriotism and yet support a war that spreads anti-American sentiment worldwide, espouse Christian compassion and yet act out in antipathy, and passionately promote fetal life and yet passively accept foreign children and our own young people meeting violent deaths in war. Those people are paying a much higher price than I am for challenging my pacifism. They are living a hypocrisy that undercuts not only their credibility but their very morality.
These experiences make me even more deeply respect what peace organizations all over the world are doing, and they affirm how much courage it takes even today just to act out as a pacifist.
Like many people, I never placed a bumper sticker on my car before Sept 11. Now I put them on all my cars, including the first brand new one I have ever owned. After more than 30 years of driving, I bought myself a 2005 hybrid, but just four months later I had a fender bender that meant replacing the bumper. Well, I slapped on the replacement sticker before that car was out of the body shop garage, right in front of all the red-state mechanics.
The sticker says