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Killing People Won’t Help Matters

 

That quote comes from Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the lone dissenting vote in the House against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor.  A Republican from Montana, Rankin is an interesting figure.  The first woman elected to Congress, she served two terms.  In her first term she voted against declaring war on Germany in World War I and in her second term she voted against declaring war on Japan.  Both votes stemmed from her deep-seated pacifism, both votes were immensely unpopular and both votes effectively ended her political career at two different points in her life.  I give her the courage of her convictions.  However, her stance after Pearl Harbor illustrates the folly of pacifism as a national policy.  The sad truth is that in this vale of tears it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to avoid greater evils than war, and those peoples who forget that truth of the human condition will experience such evils sooner or later.

In the declaration of war against Germany in World War I, the 37 year old Rankin had been a member of the House for just four days prior to the vote.  She failed to vote on the first roll call.  Former Speaker of the House “Uncle” Joe Cannon of Illinois sought her out and told her, “Little woman, you can’t afford not to vote. You represent the womanhood of the country in the American Congress. I shall not advise you to how to vote, but you should vote one way or another- as your conscience dictates.”   She voted no on the second roll call, saying as she did so, “I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.”  Forty-nine members of the House joined her in voting against the Declaration of War, but the Press focused on her and her first vote in the House effectively ended her political career for the next two decades.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

8 Comments

  1. Seen elsewhere on the worldwide web, “The first sentence of almost any story can be improved if the second sentence is “And then the murders began.”

    There are two outcomes for appeasement: defeat/fundamental transformation or more devastating war.

  2. Like Don said, full salute for convictions. But it strikes me that much of these debates between pacifism, or even the anti-death penalty and anti-war stances of today fundamentally revolve around 1 question: “Is there anything in this life worse than death?” One side says no, the other side says yes.

    It’s certainly not a pleasant question to consider nor an easy one to answer. Thus the debate goes on.

  3. “Is there anything in this life worse than death?” One side says no, the other side says yes.”
    It is the love of neighbor; it is the love of the other that motivates us to take up arms. A person may turn his other cheek, but he is not allowed to turn his neighbor’s other cheek for the neighbor, as this is a violation of the man’s free will and freedom. Elected officials speak for their constituents, and may only speak according to the precepts of our Constitution delineated in The Preamble, the inscribed purpose of our Constitution. Peaceable assembly may be armed forces directed to secure the Liberty of innocent people.
    Jeanette Rankin voted her reality. Rankin did the right thing for herself. She was outvoted by her fellow Congressmen who voted” to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our (Constitutional) Posterity.” The Preamble

  4. Nate. With one exception. The side that pretends to say “no,” to your question happens to support the demise of countless lives via abortion on demand. The ones who answered yes appreciate the fact that this life is only a chapter in the book. The death of the soul is of course worse than the death of the body.
    As you said; “the debate goes on.”

  5. It’s damn easy to be a pacifist when it isn’t your neighborhood being invaded. Are there things worse than death? Eternal damnation comes to mind. Do does submission to a totalitarian state.
    Pacifism…. bah, humbug.

  6. With one exception. The side that pretends to say “no,” to your question happens to support the demise of countless lives via abortion on demand.

    Philip, I will be fair and say that there are a fair number who remain anti-abortion (yes, even Mark Shea) though yes, I’ve thought it weird too those who believe life is most important… and are pro-choice.

    Are there things worse than death? Eternal damnation comes to mind.

    Pengiuns Fan, note that I said in the question “in this life” which would exclude the damnation of Hell. Obviously there are some who believe in that and thus think life should be preserved in an effort to “run out the clock” so to say and give people the maximum chances they can to avoid the fate. But then I say that reasoning is what leads to the conclusion that no, nothing is worse than death since it is the gateway to the worst fate of all. Regardless, it is still shifting things to the first and most important question.

    Do does submission to a totalitarian state.

    I assume the first word should be “so” and on this, we agree. It certainly seems that the soul can suffer and die long before the body does.

  7. There is a scene in the movie, “Friendly Persuasion”, after the battle with confederate cavalry, a dying man tells his Quaker friend (played by Gary Cooper) “I’m glad you didn’t join the battle, and held out for a better way.” Like the dying man, while I don’t agree with the Quakers or Rep. Rankin, something in me admires their “holding out for a better way”.
    Someone earlier asked, “Is there anything worse than death”. That’s not really the question. It’s: “Is there anything worse than killing your fellow man.” I think very little is worse, though it may be sometimes necessary. It changes the person doing the killing, and not in a good way. Something in the normal human being rebels against it, even in war, that’s way the training is so rigorous in “harding the hearts” of recruits. That’s why we reserve capital punishment for those killers who have so hardened their hearts in killing that they’re no longer human, but the form of monster who takes joy in killing their fellow human beings.
    I dont think there’s any such thing as a “good war” or “good kill” when it’s against fellow human beings. Their are necessary and unnecessary wars and killing. I pray we always seek the counsel of our Lord, to know the difference.
    Happy Palm Sunday to everyone!

  8. BPS: There is a just war. 1 Samuel 15:33 “As your sword has made women childless. so shall your mother be childless among women.” Then he cut Agag down before the Lord in Gilgal. (NAB)

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