As a Christian teenager, I did practice pacifism. The lesson I learned? Pacifism is for the popular and secure. I was neither. The worst time in your life to be a pacifist is in your teens, especially if you’re a girl. Violence is an absolute last resort after all other avenues are exhausted, and it is, like grabbing the fire extinguisher off the wall, for emergency use only. People still especially object to women standing up for themselves in this way; as men and women slowly discover the benefits of genuine social equality, this will change.
So in Wicca, where “harm none” is upheld as the salient value, it may seem strange to some that while I do not support war, any war, for any reason, I do support the basic right and need of my Wiccan and other Pagan fellows to go to war, to serve in the military, and to bear arms. I’m a fan of the first and second amendments. I am not, however, a fan of people who want to carry on about how many guns they own. It just tells me that that person has some really tiny junk. (Women included.)
It’s worth pointing out that the majority of military service men and women identify as Christian. “Thou shalt not kill,” does not get raised in their arguments often, either. The Bible here and there does say a few specific things about doing what you must to protect home and family; I believe that neopagan thinking may well fall along a similar line.At this point, the United States does need defense – this is mostly the fault of the United States itself. While some people hold on to the insane idea that the rest of the world just loves “America” (they really, really don’t) for the most part, I think we’re all aware that thanks to the US screwing with the sovereignty of any nation that muttered the word “Communist” or said, absently, “Hm, I think we have crude oil,” (see that crap they pulled with Colombia recently) we have some legitimate enemies. We also have some wholly illegitimate enemies, people who are just as ethnocentric and narrow-minded in their way; it’s their own version of the Imperialist attitude the US inherited from Great Britain, usually based in some mass judgment of United States “morality” extracted from our extremely not-representative-of-US-life entertainment industry.
Note: Except for the United Kingdom, most of the world finds the appellation of “American” to refer to the United States only borderline derogatory. “America” is actually “Americas.” It consists of two continents, and isthmus, and has a total of 23 countries, not including island nations. While the US is the most populous, the lead is dwindling.
However it was done, the reality is that now the US has itself some real enemies, and in the long run we haven’t treated our allies all that well, favoring giving aid to the enemies instead. While the overarching system seems to be acting out some WASP ((common acronym for white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, used to describe a minority with upper class power and considerable money that makes most of the political decisions in the United States. I am half WASP. I ignore this side for the most part, because it gets enough damned attention.)) neurosis using tanks, the individuals within the system have a reason to be there: loyalty to their land.
Wiccans don’t all embrace this belief; the practice of land spirit worship falls more under the purview of Celtic and Norse polytheists (and probably many others I don’t happen to be familiar with.) Still, there are those who too believe that the land has sentience and a say in who lives on it, who rules it and who connects to it. Part of honoring that system includes defending that land on the soil itself or going out to defend it at whatever the source of trouble is. On a literal level, we do become part of the land – upon death, our bodies decay into the soil, and when we take a step, we walk across the bones, flesh and muscle of our ancestors. When we defend our land, we are defending ourselves – at least one definite future we all share lays quite literally beneath our feet, as does all of our past, all at once, every time we step outside into the world.
While I personally would never go into the military – and very much resisted my father’s attempt to push me into following his footsteps in the Air Force – I recognize and support the rights of other neopagans to do so. For them, it’s not about “God and Country” the way it’s been advertised since World War Two. It’s about the land, and the love of the land, on a spiritual level. The American way of life doesn’t need to be protected – the way is changeable, and I do believe it is moving towards something healthy and genuinely free apart from the faux-freedom of conformist demands (look this way, dress this way, buy this brand) that defined us all in the 20th century. The land changes too, as each body is added over time. The soil we were born on is who we are, who we were and who we will be. It is important to protect that.
The best protection, in my mind, is diplomacy. But those who walked before us haven’t left us that choice. Perhaps, as we move the soil, we can introduce seeds of that choice even as we do what we must right now to protect the land, our one solid mark of eternity.