Friday, April 17, 2015
Stepping out of line
Is It Immoral to Serve?" I found this through Gerry Cappa's FB feed only yesterday: "Why a Top U.S Marine Became a Conscientious Objector" in Aeon. Lyle Rubin, a fellow Marine vet, interviews 1st Lt. Jacob Bridge. Curious about this transformation, and as my previous entry considered how many (or rather how few to date) vets I taught would in hindsight discourage others from enlisting, I excerpt highlights.
He signed up in high school, from a traditional upbringing. He went to a leftist bastion, the U. of Colorado, and his time in Boulder in ROTC made him more conservative. During training, he could not handle the disconnect between the pride of "The Fleet" and the immorality and cynicism of those actually in command and as his peers. A skilled leader who got to know his troops, he bristled at the disparity, and he sought therapy from a Unitarian chaplain, with whom he began to reveal his moral doubts as he grew more confident. He had an epiphany about his mortality and his hatred of what he was becoming in a culture of death.
"People change, especially in their early to mid-20s. When they say: ‘You signed the oath in the contract,’ I say: ‘Well, when I signed the contract I was borderline alcoholic, pretty homophobic, and a bunch of other things that I’m not now. I’m not the same person who signed that contract.’" You can see in the comments appended on the website how some refuse to cut Bridge any slack here.
Viktor Frankl's Man and the Search for Meaning helped guide his ethical progress. I like that Bridge does not identify with any particular faith, although he admits some elements from Buddhism as guiding him. Likewise, when Rubin asks Bridge if he has been influenced by previous conscientious objectors, he responds: "I’m very wary of including myself in another honoured lineage because here I am trying to break out of one." In his current posting in Hawai'i, he finds support from another C.O., Jeff Paterson, who leads a team representing Chelsea Manning, as well as Ann Wright, who resigned her Gulf War diplomatic post for the Quaker community. He concludes encouragingly: "The peace/nonviolence/antiwar community in Hawaii is about as robust as they come, and they found me in the nick of time." I wish him and fellow dissidents well, as they question what too few seem to do.