Saturday, June 24, 2017

Conscientious Objection in the Culture War

I finally got around to watching the much lauded Hacksaw Ridge the other day.  It suffers quite a bit from being obvious Oscar Bait, but overall it was a decent movie.  I'm not really interested in doing a review here though; I just found the movie incredibly instructive for another discussion that continues to rage in the social media circles in which I run.  This time it was re-ignited by a couple of people disrupting a version of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" that features a Donald Trump lookalike being brutally murdered instead of the Roman Emperor.

As usual, one side asserts that disrupting the play goes against their principles and should be condemned, while the other insists that these are the rules imposed upon us by the Left and they should therefore be made to suffer them just as we do.  Or, to put it more succinctly, Be Better Than Them vs. Payback's a Bitch. I of course fall into the latter group for many reasons that go beyond the scope of this particular post.

Hacksaw Ridge features just such an argument about principles versus pragmatism during wartime.  In it we learn about Desmond Doss, a man who could not in good conscience stay home while everyone else went to fight in World War II, and yet, his principles required that he not engage in violence.  He believed this so strongly that he refused to even learn how to use a gun, much less carry one into battle. His fellow soldiers saw this as cowardice and tried to drum him out of the service, asking the obvious question of "why are you here if you can't kill the enemy?"

Doss essentially responded that he may not be able to take the Japanese soldiers out of the fight, but as a medic, he could still contribute by keeping his fellow soldiers in it. He was willing to put himself at an additional risk for that ideal, and through some combination of courage, luck, and the grace of God, he managed to save numerous lives without losing his in the process.  For that, he earned the respect he hadn't been given before.

What Doss did not do was get in the way of the people doing the actual fighting or question their commitment to their shared principles.  He didn't stand between the Japanese and his fellow soldiers screaming that they were hypocrites who could not possibly call themselves Christians if they continued this barbarity.  He didn't go from foxhole to foxhole complaining that throwing grenades at the Japanese made them just like the Japanese.  And he most certainly did not shoot the guy with the flamethrower in the back because he didn't want anyone to associate him with such a horrid weapon.

Now not everyone has the stomach to whip out a flamethrower and barbeque a bunch of poor helpless men in their bunker.  Doss obviously didn't, and I know I certainly have limits on what I would be willing and able to do to win the Cultural Civil War in which we find ourselves.  As such, I don't demand people grab rhetorical flamethrowers and go to town, even if I think we're going to need a lot more of them to save individualism from being destroyed by collectivism.

All I ask is that people focus their efforts on defeating actual collectivists, and recognize that utilizing the tactics of a collectivist against a collectivist does not actually make one a collectivist, just as Desmond Doss understood that indiscriminately killing Japanese soldiers did not make one morally indistinguishable from the Japanese.

So if you are a conscientious objector in the Cultural Civil War, by all means make your arguments about a better way to live, but direct them at the Left.  Explain to them that this whole conflict only exists because they preferred conquest to comity.  Allow your allies the respect of your silence, for it is likely they believe in your principles just as much as you do, but simply recognize you can't win a war with an army of only Desmond Dosses.  Eventually someone has to get their hands dirty.

And if someone should call you a hypocrite for not "calling out your own side," you can say to them "my side is only playing by the rules your side established, and one of the many reasons we told you not to act this way was that our side would have to respond in kind.  If you want it to stop, then you'll have to stop it first."

Then perhaps, just maybe, we can reach a point where we can once again all live by the principles of individualism instead of those of collectivism.

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