Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11th - A time to reflect on war without any ideology

I am a Quaker by faith and therefore a pacifist for religious reasons, there is that of God within everyone. I am also a Baltic German, I come from a family narrative that had us on all the wrong sides of the wars except for Baltic Liberation War in 1918 to 1920. My people were the enemy of liberalism and a better world in numerous wars. My relatives were also all good and loving people. I am named for a man that was a fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe.

I also live in the real world and I accept that we need the police and by accepting that I tacitly agree to the state having the power of deadly force if needed. I hope that the use of such a power would always be limited and constrained. I am not a purest when it comes to pacifism, though I hope for a world in which deadly force will never be needed.

Many conflicts have been easy to condemn as wrong, but a war like the one in Afghanistan is one that tests my faith. If there is such a things a justified war, then Afghanistan is the poster child for it. How can I oppose a war that is trying to bring a civil society to the country? How can I oppose a war against gangs of men imposing their will through fear and brutal torture on people that are crying out to be protected? Canada is really acting as the police in the country by trying to allow law and order to exist and space for democratic institutions to take hold.

I still have trouble with the war because it involves the death of so many people, so many of God's childern and that of God within each one of them But if not through war how else will it come about? How long are we willing to condemn the people of Afghanistan to hell on earth? To pull out of the country would condemn the people to another generation of death and destruction. Really, pulling out means ignoring the people of the country. They can only be ignored because most people in the first world do not consider brown skinned argarian people to be worth as much as a stray dog is. Most first world people are OK with condemning millions of dark skinned people to death because they are out of sight out of mind and are not really human like themselves. The motivation for most people against the war in Afghanistan is fundamentally a racist one.

I can not but marvel at the bravery and courage of the Canadians that have died in Afghanistan, I know I do not have the fortitude to put my life on the line in the same way. Terry Glavin has a full list of all the Canadians killed in Afghanistan. It is not just soldiers, three of them were there trying to build a better society and they were assassinated.

What insanity possess people to kill someone like Mike Frastacky? He was killed in 2006 because he was helping build a school. Mike was a carpenter from Vancouver that was trying to make this world a better place for kids and he had to die for this.

November 11th this year has also been tied up with the fall of the Berlin Wall for me. The end of communism in eastern Europe and apartied in South Africa were two of the great non violent victories of the people against the oppressors. That moment I heard in my kitchen in the house on Fernwood road that the Wall had come down was a wonderful moment of joy and victory.

Now 20 years on we can see the expansion of democracy and human rights to close to dozen countries in eastern Europe. The people in the the countries that did not readopt authoritarian government are doing better than ever before, there is no comparison to the past for them. The triumph of that moment 20 years ago is a testament to humanity.

When I walked along Shelbourne Street today, I thought about Afghanistan and how much the Canadian troops are energized by being allowed to work for the ordinary people. I thought about the members of my family and how the wars in the 20th century affected us. And I also thought about the Wall. There were thousands of victims killed because of the wall, they deserve to remembered in the same way we remember the people that fought in wars, ultimately their deaths were in the name of human rights.

1 comment:

Terry Glavin said...

That was a tremendously insightful and thoughtful essay, Bernard. I would love to hear more of this sort of thing from real pacifists. We need to hear more from you.

We have at least one Quaker pacifist among the members of the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee. It's really hard for him, but that's why his membership is so valued.

Warmest regards,