Bil Browning

Comment of (Last) Week: Don Sherfick on Pacifism

Filed By Bil Browning | September 26, 2011 9:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: anti-war, Don Sherfick, Don't Ask Don't Tell, pacifism, Pearl Harbor, Yasmin Nair

In Yasmin Nair's post, "Today We Are Not Celebrating: Don't Ask to Fight Their Wars," she argues that "not all us queer and trans folk Thumbnail image for mrfish_dontaskdotell-500.jpgwere banging on the doors of the war machine begging to be rainbow colored cannon fodder." Fellow contributor Don Sherfick weighed in with two comments I'm combining into one because they flow together nicely.

Just to make it clear then, Yasmin, you would not have supported LGBT participation in responding to the Japaneese Attach on Pearl Harbor? Are you an absolutist on this or do you have some kind of reasonably framed criteria (understandably presuming against any LGBT military involvement) that would allow for some exceptions?
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I fully understand the ambivalence that most pacifist-leaning folks have in this area, be they for religious (eg: Mennonite) or ideological/political/other (eg: LGBT) reasons.

What I do have is a problem with the idea that simply being LGBT automatically has to be in lock-step witth being anti-military. There is a least some role, in my opinion, for uniformed service in a defensive and protective posture. Otherwise if hoards of people from elsewhere screaming "death and destruction to the faggots and the trannies" come from air, land, sea, from cyberspace or wherever, what's the answer? Hopefully it is something more than a Rodney King look-alike waving a rainbow flag at them and saying "can't we all just get along?".

What are your thoughts, Projectors? Is war justified? Now that LGB people are allowed to serve openly, should they?


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There is no "LGB people" or "LGB tribe" (I find those ideas insulting). It is for each individual to decide, regardless of his or her sexual orientation.

Personally I would not enlist in the US military, because I am opposed to most of their wars. But I am not a pacifist. During the second World War I would volunteer to fight or join the resistance if my country was invaded. The same if aliens exist and invade us to enslave us.

I liked the days when instead of a professional Army most people or men learned how to fight. But nowadays, with today's technology, that would not win a war. Therefore, although I wouldn't join myself, I am in favour of the existence of the Army.

This looks like a false dichotomy. I do not see Yasmin and Don's ideas on this matter as mutually exclusive. "Not all us queer and trans folks" does not mean "none of us queer and trans folk", and the current state of armed conflict does not represent all possible armed conflicts.

In a more general sense, though, I do not think that membership in the LGBT community (or lack thereof if you prefer) should entail any specific stance on serving in the military. Each person should examine his/her/hir own position on war, violence, and military service.

For myself, I will not engage in violence except in self- or other-defense. Since entering military service would mean relinquishing (to some degree) the right to exercise my own ethics in making that determination, I will not join the military.

However, I do not demand that everyone come to the same conclusion I have. I do not consider my nephew in Afghanistan or my good friend in Iraq unethical for serving any more than I consider them unethical for eating meat--just as they respect my choice of civilian life or vegetarianism without judging me a coward or a sissy.

california panda | September 26, 2011 7:18 PM

Perhaps the confusion is because the question is not properly framed. There is a distinct difference between defending what you believe in and what is "right", and open-ended "warfare". One being a subset of the other. All wars have a context in which they exist. It's that context, reason for being, and what I call the "splash" factor that people have to judge for themselves. Basically the "splash" factor is how does this affect me, my family, my principles and the security needed to maintain those things. That pretty much makes any decision to join the "conflict" a personal decision. Group decisions to wage war are generally based on falsehoods and misperceptions or a response to a real or perceived threat to the group. However, ultimately, it comes down to actual individual decisions to continue or stop the conflict that have the most impact.