The trap of fighting for freedom

I’m sick of being told that being a pacifist makes me unpatriotic. I have been told more times than I can count that every freedom I’ve ever enjoyed can be directly attributed to our fighting soldiers. And while I recognize and appreciate the freedoms the military has earned for the country, failing to question such a generalization creates problems in the way we remember history, respond to the present and plan for the future. I have a huge amount of respect for our soldiers because they put themselves in physical danger doing what they think is right. I do not discount that act of bravery but argue that when we attribute every accomplishment to the military we fail to give credit to equally important non-violent movements. William Penn, founder of three states in the Union, was wholly dedicated to the American values of religious tolerance, civil liberty and democratic governance and sought to resolve conflict through diplomacy and cooperation in place of force throughout his life. Benjamin Franklin, drafter of the Declaration of Independence said, “there was never a good war or a bad peace.” Peace is not unpatriotic; on the contrary, it has been central to the American credo since our independence from Britain. More recently, Martin Luther King, Jr. led effective non-violent demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement, effectively pressuring Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act. Failing to credit our freedom to these non-violent acts of bravery, we begin to believe that political change can only be accomplished through the use of force. Evidence that our leadership has fallen into this trap can be found in the national budget, which allotted $663.3 billion to the Department of Defense this fiscal year but only $63.7 billion to the Department of Education. This division does not reflect the values of people who devoted their lives to non-violent struggles to make America great. When we express our gratitude to live in a place where we are guaranteed a multitude of freedoms we need to remember the people who were able to make great accomplishments with the pen rather than the sword. We need to learn to respect their bravery as much as we respect the bravery of our soldiers.