Like myself, a former Marine, Hamas militants, the IDF, and the US Marine Corps are all members of the brotherhood of arms.
No doubt about it, the Unites States Marine Corps is the best fighting force in the world, pound for pound, man for man, woman for woman. There has never been a group so well trained, conditioned and ready to kill. I know. Paris Island left an indelible mark on my soul, a confirmation like none other. Conditioned to believe, heart and soul, that violence is the answer, that killing your enemies is both good and necessary, we fully embraced “the Terminator,” “the Predator,” and the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” It was and is redemptive violence, heroic and noble, a holy and sanctified sacrifice, a true communion of blood. A Marine Corps bumper sticker reads,”A Dead Enemy Is A Peaceful Enemy – Blessed Be The Peacemakers”. None of this love-your-enemies crap. Wipe the SOB out and be done with it.
When violence is the answer, a partner is needed to affirm your identity, to validate your belief. A partner to dance with, whose blood you will spill and who will become the unequivocal, undeniable proof of your faithfulness. The benighted and the uniformed will thank you, not realizing this truly is a dance of death.
So I have tried to leave the brotherhood of arms behind and learn to love. I have tried to leave the violence of my childhood, the violence of a militarized society and public education, behind. And I have tried to leave the violence of the Marine Corps behind, but it is so difficult when it is still inside. I am Hamas and the IDF and the USMC, as long as some part of me holds that violence is the answer.
Yet there is a deeper truth I cling to, a fragile life raft that keeps me afloat in this contaminated, soul-sickening sea of violence. The truth, deep down and beyond all I have been taught, something I have known from early childhood and perhaps before, is–I never wanted to hurt anyone. I only wanted to love. This is what I will cling to and will continue to strive for: to learn how to do that. The Marine Corps’ slogan is Semper Fi–– yet I have learned that love and nonviolence are the only things that deserves my faithfulness.
John Amidon served in the USMC from 1965 – 1969. He is the Chair of the Interfaith Alliance of NYS (TIANYS) and attends Albany, NY Friends Meeting.