Monday, August 23, 2010


In response to some questioning on self-defense I described the following:

I was first introduced to aikido by the author of "Giving in to get your way," a well written book. (He also happened to have written the script for the original "Friday the 13th" movie.) He had come at my invitation to have a "workshop" for the seniors at Moorestown Friends School in 1980. The principles that have been mentioned of aikido seemed appropriate for looking at an alternative way of dealing with violence and possibly of looking at "turning the other cheek" as away of "Giving in to get your way."

I was a "pacifist" in my early years when I thought I couldn't kill someone, until an incident at Ohio State U. with the National Guard "occupation" of campus in the very early 70's when I learned that I had, somewhere inside me, the capacity to "kill" someone who I had "dehumanized" in a brief moment clouded by frustration, teargas, and the "other" masked by a uniform and gas mask. A National Guardsman was coming at me, out of the cloud of tear gas, with lowered bayonet. I was walking across the "commons" heading to class when the Guard was ordered to clear the commons because it seemed like students were flooding the commons (a common occurrence at that time of day when the most classes were changing) and the "military" view was of an "attack." I was carrying a brief case. In the instant when, through tears and fog from the tear gas, I saw the Guardsman, more an apparition than a person, I sensed my hand tense around the handle of my briefcase and I "instinctively?" turned toward the apparition with the apparent intent of attacking it (him?). However, almost as quickly as that reaction, the tears began to flow because I realized that had I had a lethal weapon, I might well have used it to harm or kill what I realized was a person very much like the students I knew. From that time on, I have been a "pacifist" because I know I do have somewhere, hopefully well "covered," the capacity to do bodily harm or possibly kill another person.

I learned that it is "easy" to dehumanize another when they are "camouflaged" to appear different and when they are "foreign" to your way of thinking. It may be hard to follow the commandment of "Love thy Neighbor," but I believe that it did apply "even" to National Guard and does apply to all, even the "enemy." I believe we need to seek ways in which we can turn enemies into neighbors and trust that when the time does come that we can "turn" attackers away without harm to us or our loved ones or to the attacker. An "impossible dream" perhaps, but one I believe we are called to seek.

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