Pacifists owe gratitude to fighters

by Ian A. Millar

While I found the article “Quakers mark new year by praying for peace” [Jan. 3, 2007; by Amy Kingsley] fitting enough for the Christmas season, or any other season for that matter, I feel that some comment is in order as I found the article wanting in some aspects.

The Quakers a long-standing pacifist organization, are often found at anti-war protests and as far as I can ascertain never show any positive gratitude to the men and women of our armed forces who in fact make their pacifist ideals possible. While I support their right to protest in any way they see fit I think some clarification behind their efforts from an outsider’s perspective is in order. Were it a perfect world in which everyone desired understanding and tolerance, joining together in prayer might have some validation. Sadly we have never had such a world nor is it likely that we ever will.

Beating your swords into plowshares and pruning hooks is all well and good when you are dealing with others of like mind. When you are dealing with an enemy, as we did during World War II, who took the scrap metal we sold them and turned it into bombs, bullets and bayonets to bring about our demise then all bets are off. You can pray until the cows come home but the salient fact is you are going to die unless you can find a place to hide from the enemy or unless you can count on others to do the fighting and dying for you. While holding pacifist ideals may have some positive aspects, it should be remembered that the right to uphold those ideals were bought and paid for through the sacrifice of men and women who found over the years that an enemy festering with hatred and a determination to take your freedom has little concern for pacifists.

Henry Frye stated, “World War III has not occurred, and for that we are thankful.” While many people may agree with this I cannot. World War III has been underway for some time now and pacifism, combined with a growing lack of national leadership, will only hasten the evil coming our way. When this war reaches its crescendo it will be unlike any previous world war and may in fact be the last war of any note.

This war is pitting religion against religion and in due course we are going to be fighting it right here at home. It will be a matter of defending and fighting to maintain our freedom. We are facing, and will continue to face, an enemy that wants us dead unless we humbly knuckle under and line up to accept our beheading. It’s a nice thought to find a quiet nook and pray for divine intervention, but prayer alone is not going to get the job done. Men and women who refuse defeat and take up arms will.

The article mentions that fireworks burst aggressively overhead, hardly fitting for a pacifist group. It would seem that both fireworks and aggression don’t seem to fit into this image of a prayer vigil. Bob Plain states that the explosions were a harbinger of things to come. No mention of what these “things” are but perhaps this is some indication that some are thinking that prayer just might not be enough down the road.

And the event finished up with apple cider and cut gingerbread which sounds tasty enough, but then the origami peace cranes in memory of those killed in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left a definite sour taste in my mouth. Where were the cranes in gratitude for the thousands of American servicemen and women who gave their lives to maintain our freedom, indeed to make this prayer gathering possible? As did millions of others, I served in the military and would do so again to guarantee the Quakers and others the freedom to pray, protest and voice their opinions at the expense of their fellow countrymen. Many years ago on a storm-tossed sea I learned about the comfort of prayer. However, if the day comes that we must face an armed enemy I subscribe to the words of Padre Howell Forgy who, while under attack at Pearl Harbor (no peace cranes for those victims either), said, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” Prayer is great for the heart, mind, and soul but freedom comes from, and is maintained at, the muzzle of a gun.

Ian Millar lives in Kernersville. He served in the Coast Guard from 1965 to 1969.