While I was in college and exiting into the work place, the Vietnam War was still actively causing US citizens to take a stand for or against war in general or for or against that particular war. It hit home for many of us because of the draft. We could not avoid struggling to make up our minds whether or not we agreed with the use of weapons to impose our will on other people and, more intimately, whether or not we’d kill anyone to end a difference of viewpoints of any kind. Could I see myself learning to use weapons in order to kill someone? That issue remained a struggle for me. I did not resolve it in my own personal life until many years after the Vietnam War was over.
Today I’m less concerned about death than I used to be because my experiences with God reassure me that there is definitely life beyond the death of our bodies and that no one is going to hell after his or her body ceases to function. It’s amazing how knowing those simple facts to be true has clarified in my mind whether or not I’d use a weapon to settle a dispute or protect myself from harm. Since I no longer believe in settling disputes by any means of violence, there’s no question in my mind that I’d not use a weapon to protect myself. I’m simply willing to go to be with God free of my body’s limitations under whatever circumstances may come along to free me from my body.
Meanwhile, as I was gradually increasing my awareness of God’s reality and my opportunity to relate intimately with God’s reality while yet in the body as well as beyond, I watched us bring the Vietnam War’s issue about taking another person’s life home to us. It’s no longer a question of whether or not we’ll kill or harm another person who is one of “them” beyond the US borders. It’s become a question of whether or not we’ll kill or harm another person here at home to settle a dispute “once and for all” or do so to revenge a wrong we believe has happened that matters enough to us to use violence in anger to redress it. The violence we used to export we have domesticated. It’s ironic that at the same time we’ve out-sourced so many life-sustaining jobs to places beyond our borders we’ve managed to in-source use of weapons as a more and more acceptable life-terminating solution. Is there some sort of correlation? Has the growing hopelessness of finding the means to support ourselves and our families increased our willingness to kill someone we may be able to blame for our loss of self-sufficiency and accompanying sense of dignity and self-worth? Has our gradually declining sense of self-worth caused us to view life in general as less valuable and assume that everyone’s life has little worth?
I’m not in a position to answer all aspects of the questions that were commonly on many people’s minds during the Vietnam War – nor those commonly on many of our minds today. I still don’t know what I’d do if I were armed and had the choice to protect a loved one or even a stranger from harm by using my weapon. I’d hope that I would be well-trained in the use of my weapon and in taking full responsibility for exercising wisdom and calm reason in deciding whether or not to use it under any circumstance that confronted me. I could make conscious decisions to undergo such training to the fullest extent possible and remain current in my training. But what I’d do after that remains unknown to me. How would adrenaline and other by-products of fear affect my decision-making and performance? Would I want to be trained so at least I had the additional option of appropriately using (or not using) a weapon?
Unresolved. By default I’m not trained or likely to ever be trained. So, unarmed I continue to be. After being so grateful for having not been in combat at any time in my life, I’m reluctant to participate in domestic combat now. My saying that does not denigrate those who have made an alternative choice to become well trained in the use of weapons under the terms specified by the law and according to wisdom and reason. Until we’ve resolved the issue of violence in our society at large, we need to carefully consider how widely available weapons are and in whose hands we allow them to come. Continuing to escalate violence as an option while arming ourselves with increasingly more powerful weapons seems unwise to me when we seem to have so little control over the emotional and mental state of those who access those weapons and what their motives to use them may be.
For now I remain committed to investing all of my time and energy in promoting ways to reduce violence and reduce motives for using violence to settle disputes or seek revenge. It seems to me that to the extent that we can reduce tendencies towards violence in our society and truly promote domestic tranquility intentionally by A) nurturing emotional and mental health for all of us and B) encouraging us all to be forgiving rather than vengeful, the issue of weapons and their use will fade in significance. We simply would not need to bring any kind of warfare home to us anymore because we would have ended the emotional warfare that rages within so many of us in our private inner battles and spills out as domestic violence in our homes, onto our streets and into our schools, businesses and other gathering places. Our emotional battles within us extend outward into acts of violence. It’s time to learn how to nurture lasting inner peace and allow our peace to extend outward instead.
© Art Nicol 2016