“Everything in life is gray, you know.”
I haven’t taken the time to put my thoughts into words over the past few days. I’ve written about this before…mostly that it’s a product of my oft inability to put complex thoughts and feelings into words.
This one is a doozy.
From my senior year of college on, I’ve considered myself an aspiring pacifist. Imperfect, yes. But aspiring, absolutely. If I’ve ever been committed to a cause, it has been to stand against becoming violent in order to eradicate violence. I can’t quite remember being so deeply convicted about anything, as I was the myth of redemptive violence. And this conviction has landed me in Sarajevo for the summer.
I expected this value to be challenged, but I never expected it would be challenged this deeply, this quickly. It is well known that, though the siege of this city lasted nearly four years, it took NATO all of about ten days to stop it. And on Friday, I heard the stories of two people who lived through the war, and fought in various ways to preserve their livelihoods. Each day brought hope that someone was coming to help, as they valiantly accepted their circumstances day in and day out. For months and years. And when someone came, it took a matter of hours to restore at least a marginal level of peace. Hearing the stories of pain and survival, and watching the emotional recollections of the storytellers moved something in me. Why did it take so long when it could have ended so quickly? And with that, one of my most characteristic beliefs found itself on rocky ground.
I suspect that this one will take some time to work through and figure out. As a starting point, I’m re-reading Christopher Hedges’ War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. When I return home, I’ll probably pick up Walter Wink’s Engaging the Powers once again, and end my summer reflecting on the ideas that led me to pacifism in the first place. But for now, I feel a bit uncertain.
What I do know is that regardless of where I end up, philosophically speaking, nothing need hinder my commitment to devoting my life to alleviating dehumanizing violence. Tomorrow, my first job with a peacebuilding organization begins, and I couldn’t be more eager.
“And thought it’s been a long time, you’re right back where you started from. I see it in your eyes, and now you’re giving up the gun.”