When I first heard someone use the word, warrior, I was surprised, repulsed—but fascinated. An Annapolis-educated, former Navy fighter pilot told me he was a warrior. I had associated warriors with Native Americans and the Japanese Samurai, not the modern U.S. military.
The second time I heard someone use the word, warrior, was in a talk by Ed Tick, a Jungian psychoanalyst who has been working with Vietnam veterans with PTSD since 1978 and is now treating Iraq and Afghanistan War vets. He said one way we can help our veterans heal from their war wounds is to treat them as warriors. The audience, comprised mostly of peace activists gasped. Tick acknowledged the audience’s dismay and apologized, but he insisted on using the term, warrior, because its meaning makes sense to the vets. My subsequent reading of his book, War and the Soul, changed my understanding of the warrior to the point that I am now advocating its use as an approach for peacemaking.
According to Jungian psychology, the warrior is an archetype, which is an idealized role or identity embedded in our cultural narratives that guides our minds and actions. Archetypes have a mythic quality that bid us to act out a particular role for certain situations automatically. The warrior archetype typically stirs men in their adolescence while it comes to women during middle age—as it did for Cindy Sheehan.
The key to Cindy’s power is her warrior instinct to protect her loved ones—which with the loss of her son she extends to all soldiers. She calls herself a “Mother Bear” in her book, Not One More Mother’s Child, and eventually would be referred to as “Peace Mom.” Her warrior instincts, combined with her own sense of allegiance to the nation’s democratic ideals, serve as the motivation behind her actions–including her acts of civil disobedience.
Peace activists who rekindle the warrior’s innate desire to protect and cherish life in our nation and our world are key to fighting back the fascist-like directions this administration is taking us. However, to get there, we need a new vision of the warrior. Internationally-known inspirational speaker and Franciscan priest Richard Rohr describes this warrior as one who:
“…see[s] through and stand[s] against mass illusions of our time, and [is] willing to pay the price of disobedience. It takes warrior energy to see through the soft rhetoric of ‘support our troops’ which cleverly diverts us from the objective evil of war. It takes warrior energy to march to a different drum, disbelieve the patriotic trivia, and re-believe in the tradition of non-violence, civil resistance, and martyrdom.”
Many people besides Cindy Sheehan have adopted such a vision of the warrior including Lt. Ehren Watada, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the Iraq Veterans Against War, Move-On.org, A.N.S.W.E.R. and United for Peace & Justice. Active duty soldiers in the Appeal for Redress are calling for a withdrawal of troops with some courageously testifying before Congress to do so. Generals are retiring their commissions in order to speak out. Gold Star Families for Peace, which Cindy founded, seeks not only to support families who have lost loved ones but “to be a positive force in our world to bring our country’s sons and daughters home from Iraq, to minimize the human cost of this war, and to prevent other families from the pain [they] are feeling as the result of our losses.” The Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out Against the War, and Mothers Against the Draft are working to end the war and bring the troops home. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is trying to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace in order to reduce domestic and international violence. And many local peace groups continue to stand out on public street corners—in all kinds of weather, all year long—demonstrating their objections to the war and the Bush policies.
Fighting wars based on deception and lies or without a just cause is not new. In 472 B.C.E. Aeschylus lost a brother in the war between the Persians and Athenians and wrote The Persians to illustrate how a war of choice mounted by the Persian king as “payment for [his] pride and godless arrogance” resulted in the terrible slaughter of common soldiers on both the Athenian and Persian sides. Leaders today, especially leaders of democracies, need to be called to task for any decision to go to war.
In this age where weapons of mass destruction are becoming more and more accessible, where pre-emptive strike is justified and where torture and perpetual war are deemed a legitimate government policy, it’s no longer a matter of just “giving peace a chance”, as the John Lennon song suggests, but for us human beings to find imaginative and practical ways of dealing with our blood lust. Stopping governments from waging wars takes committed and steadfast citizens willing to fight the cause of justice and peace. Don’t wait for someone else to do the job. Do what you can in your own community. Be a warrior for peace!