[ Post by Kate Graham, Guest Editor ]
One of my greatest personal heroes, Robert A. Heinlein, once stated flatly that a male pacifist was a contradiction in terms. Heinlein was a brilliant writer, one hell of a philosopher, and very seldom wrong.
He was wrong this time.
He should have said that a male victim is a contradiction in terms.
Heinlein may be forgiven, though. No writer is perfect, and it is a common mistake to confuse the ideologically committed pacifist with the chronic, or professional, victim. Heinlein himself was a pacifist, although I do not believe he ever realized it, but he was never a victim – and he certainly had no shortage of testosterone!
This subject has been very much on my mind for the last day or so.
First of all, and most obviously, it is very, very clear that he does not love his daughter.
I have a lifelong and very dear friend who is utterly and absolutely opposed to everything I stand for concerning firearms. I am aware of this, and I have tried and tried to accept it. I am seldom too terribly shocked by what comes out of his mouth, but this time he caught me totally flat-footed and left me completely speechless.
He related to me just yesterday that a couple of years ago, his thirty-year-old daughter came to visit him. He was talking to her as she was unpacking in the guest room of his home, and when she got to the bottom of her suitcase, there was her little handgun that she traveled with.
He was shocked and enraged. He informed her that he had not only never fired such an abomination, he had never even touched one, and he insisted that she remove that instrument of Satan from his home immediately and leave it in her car.
Unfortunately, she did as he asked without a murmur. I would have removed the pistol also, but I would certainly have removed myself as well, both from his house and from his life. Permanently. Then again, I may have misjudged his daughter just a bit. It’s true that she’s never come back for another visit. Smart girl.
I wonder if my friend has any idea of what that little tale that he related to me with such glowing and self-righteous pride reveals about him, and about his feelings for his daughter. Let’s take a closer look.
First of all, and most obviously, it is very, very clear that he does not love his daughter. I have a bit of insider knowledge there, as I was aware that he had made no effort to see her in twenty years, but I would have realized this particular fact anyway.
He actually considered his blind terror of an inanimate piece of hardware to be more important than his daughter’s safety, and she had just driven from California to Texas to visit him!
Harry really isn’t an evil man. If anyone came to his door hungry, he would feed them.
As an aside, my own father loved me very, very much. If my father had ever learned that I had made such a trip without a firearm, he’d have tanned every scrap of hide right off my backside, thirty years grown or not! As a matter of fact, he’d have raised holy un-shirted hell with me for leaving it in the bottom of my suitcase and not in my purse or pocket!
Not Harry. He was able to pull his soul out and polish it and tell himself what a wonderful Christian he was, and he’s been patting himself on the back for it ever since.
Sadly, my friend Harry is a professional victim. He subscribes to the pseudo-morality that says that it is better to suffer any indignity – even die – than to use force in your own defense or the defense of another. If he is ever mugged or robbed, I am quite sure that I will have to attend his funeral, because he will not lift a finger to help himself.
Harry really isn’t an evil man. If anyone came to his door hungry, he would feed them. He is kind to animals. He pays his bills. He drinks in moderation. And he has a sense of humor that is wicked and delightful. I enjoy his company very much – or I did until he found out I carry a gun. Now that I know his views on the matter, I will never visit his home again (because I am never, ever unarmed), although we have a professional and friendly relationship on the Internet and the telephone.
Harry’s personality has a fatal flaw. He is a murder victim looking for a place to lie down and die. He isn’t alone.
Actually, it is a peculiar form of cowardice, although certainly not the usual sort. Harry is a very religious man, and I am fairly sure that death is not what frightens him. Harry is utterly terrified to look deep into his soul and see the beast looking back out at him. He fears his own inability to control himself once that beast is out in the open. So he holds himself to total and absolute non-violence, regardless of the level of threat brought against him, and he has convinced himself that virtuous.
Harry has been very lucky in his eighty years of life. He has never been at- tacked, or watched someone else be attacked, and tasted the helplessness that would be the natural result of refusing to prepare himself for such an eventuality. So he has never experienced the self-loathing that would result from his inaction. Harry doesn’t have too many more years left to him, and I honestly hope he is never forced to learn that lesson.
Harry calls himself a pacifist, but he is very wrong. He is a victim. Sad and pathetic.
On the other side of the coin, my partner and closest friend in the whole world is a pacifist, as I am. He is definitely male, but the resemblance to Harry stops right there. John is possibly the most dangerous man I’ve ever known.
Contradiction? Not at all.
John believes, as I do, that to initiate force against another human being – or government – is wrong. I’ve known him for years now, and I have seen him under enormous stress and enormous provocation, and I can state with absolute moral certainty that nothing – nothing at all – can make him cross that line.
So he is a definitely a pacifist. Say anything you want to him. He will not escalate the conflict. Tell him that his mother is a scum-sucking whore, and he will grin and ask you where you met her. Bring him a real grievance, and he will try to resolve it so that everyone goes away happy. If it cannot be resolved immediately, he will try to walk away from you so that all parties can calm down. If you will not let him walk away, and you insist on fighting, he will break some portion of your anatomy in very short order (not any particular skill – just age and treachery).
He actually considered his blind terror of an inanimate piece of hardware to be more important than his daughter’s safety.”
If you are stupid enough to attack John with any kind of lethal force – especially by reaching for his gun – I absolutely guarantee that you will die before your eye even registers that he has reached for his holster. Attack me, and it will happen even faster (although I would certainly try to beat him to it – but he’s fast!). John is a pacifist, not a victim. And he cares about me, so he will not allow me to be a victim. It is not immoral to resolve a physical conflict efficiently. It is only immoral to start one. A pacifist is committed to never, ever starting a physical conflict.
You see? No contradiction in terms. Male pacifist.
John is a pacifist. And John is a man.