Written 1212 pm Jan 31, 1991 by mideastdesk in cdpmideast.forum WAR IS THE DEATH OF CONSCI
Written 12:12 pm Jan 31, 1991 by mideastdesk in cdp:mideast.forum
WAR IS THE DEATH OF CONSCIENCE
By Joel Preston Smith
I believe that war is the death of conscience. I believe that only by
refusing to practise my moral beliefs can I then kill another human
I know that I cannot kill. My life, if it's to have any meaning, should
be dedicated to ending suffering in the world, not protracting it.
The prospect of being asked to kill in war is more threatening to me
than the prospect of dying. My life will have no spirituality no
foundation in principles if others have to die to support it. It was
this belief that led me to become a vegetarian more than a year ago, and
I am still struggling with my conscience. I've dedicated myself to
preserving the lives of animals, and yet I work in an institution that
is committed to killing people.
I refuse to kill because killing is imnmoral. War is not immoral because
some authority has passed a law saying war is immoral. It's not immoral
because any religion has a code that says it's immoral. War is immoral
because it intentionally increases human suffering. War willfully,
consciously maims, tortures, and starves. War rapes the earth, driving
its victims deeper into hunger and strife. War makes fear and grief and
misery the whole habitation of human life.
War doesn't end when the bombs stop falling or when the soldiers leave
the battle- field. War leaves in its wake the hungry, the homeless, the
sick, the dying, the widows and the orphans, and their bitterness--the
seeds of another war.
War sacrifices life for ideals. For all the things that we want in life:
peace for ourselves and our children, the freedom to worship or even not
worship as we choose, enough food and shelter to give us safety and a
measure of comfort, we should not be willing to kill to get them. Most
every person and every culture in the whole history of the world has
wondered if there is some transcendental value to life. Some have
settled on the answer and have transfigured their lives, and some reject
the answer outright and live without morality or spirituality. But
almost everyone searches. Few people can believe that this wonderful
life they have been given ends in death and doesn't go beyond it.
The search itself is one of the most important things we can do with our
lives -- if in scarching, we demonstrate the character of that higher
truth. I believe it is impossible to reach for a higher truth with
bloody hands. There can be no sanctity, no morality, in a life dedicated
War sacrifices life for ideals. Peace and morality make ideals sanctify
Our nation outlaws the premeditated murder of a human beingQexcept when
it may benefit the goverment, as in war. The government believes that
killing for self-interest is immoral, but killing for the national
interest is an honorable pastime. I believe the government, at the
expense of the moral sanctity of its citizens, has given itself the
express permission to suspend and institute morality at will.
I cannot shape my conscience to fit the shifting morals of the
government. No government has the right to make murderers of its
citizens. No matter the reason, killing in war can never be justified.
No ideal is more valuable than the human being who possesses it. No
religion is more valuable than the human being who practices it. And no
government is worth more than the life of a single human being whose
responsibility it is to serve. None of these religion, philosophy,
governmentQexist without human life to create and nurture them.
Ideals can't have any value if we are willing to strangle our own
conscience to support them. I can't kill to preserve liberty. I can't
murder for justice. I can't gun someone down to preserve freedom. There
is no liberty, or justice, or freedom in the mind of a murderer. There's
no freedom either in the conscience of a man who is willing to sublimate
his morals into violence.
My morals have only as much vitality as the commitment I have to making
them live not as ideals only, but as my physical self also. My
conscience can have no life except I animate it and sanctify it through
The only ideals that have any vitaiity are those we won t sacrifice, no
matter what the circumstances. The rightness in life is in giving your
conscience life, in helping to preserve the lives of other living
beings, not murdering them.
My beliefs will not allow me to participate in war, nor support it in
any form. War destroys the peace it seeks to create. War destroys peace
where it is most difficult to find -- in our own minds. War destroys
life and I am committed to preserving it. War puts conscience to the
sword; even supporting the military in peacetime, in preparing others to
kill, threatens the sanctity of my conscience. I can't practice morality
if I serve in an institution that kills. War kills. It kills conscience
and it kills people. I won't.
The above statement is an excerpt from Joel P. Smith 's conscientious
objector application. Smith is an active duty soldier assigned to the
Presidio of San Francisco Army Base. He holds the rank of "specialist."
To contact Joel Smith write P. 0. Box 29153, San Francisco, California
For more information about conscientious objection contact the Central
Committee For Conscientious Objectors at (415) 474-3002 or 1-800-86-NO WAR.
Reproduced by American Friends Service Committee, 2160 Lake Street, San
Francisco, California 94121.
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