[Buddha-l] Supporting Peace

Richard P. Hayes rhayes at unm.edu
Wed May 25 09:51:05 MDT 2005

On Tue, 2005-05-24 at 21:17 -0400, curt wrote:

> I have the impression that most Buddhist who are inclined to
> politcal/social activism have a pretty narrow conception of
> who they want to work with. What I mean specifically is that
> a lot of Buddhists (including especially those inclined to political/
> social activism) assume that the only people worth working with
> are pacifists.

This has not been my experience. Of course, most of my experience has
been in Canada, but there Buddhists worked happily with Catholics,
Anglicans, members of the United Church of Canada and Unitarians and
various Jewish organizations, none of whom are absolute pacifists. Of
course Buddhists also worked with Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers, all
of whom are, or are very close to, absolute pacifists.

> This is often a problem within the peace movement itself - and the
> problem usually arises from religious (usually Christian) activists
> who assume that only pacifists can "really" be against war. 

This may be true generally. In the absence of statistics, I don't have
any way of knowing. Again, speaking only from my own experience, I have
worked quite a bit with Catholics who accept their traditional
guidelines for just war but who feel that the US has not been involved
in a war since WWII that met the five criteria for just war.

> The percentage of Americans who would agree that all wars (including
> the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and WWII) are morally
> unjustifiable is vanishingly small.

Perhaps. It would be interesting to see statistics. Has the Pew
foundation collected any statistics on this issue? I am confident that
if I were polled, I would not be able to name a single war that the US
has been involved in that I think was morally justifiable, and I am
equally confident that I am probably in a minority among US citizens.

> And within the peace movement itself there is a significant portion
> of activists who are not pacifists.

Yes, this I know to be true.

> This is one of the reasons why I personally have little interest in
> either the BPF or FOR - they promote a very distorted (in my opinion)
> vision of what the peace movement should be about.

It doesn't much matter whether one opposes a particular military action
because one is against that one particular action or because one is
against all war. The important thing is that people work together for
what they see as a common cause until the work is done. Fortunately, I
have not seen much failure of groups with different ideologies to be
able to work together for peace, the environment, economic justice and
other causes, even when the reasons to work for those causes may be
radically different. The prevalent attitude, I think is something like
this: Let's work together for peace, then when we achieve it we can
fight with each other about why peace was important.

Richard Hayes <rhayes at unm.edu> 
"Everybody's crying `Peace on earth--
just as soon as we win this war.'" -- Mose Allison

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