Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019
Pacifism, Guns, Religion, Revolution, etc.
I’m a committed pacifist (what used to be called a peacenik). No apology.. I hate war and everything associated with it. I believe that human disagreements are best settled by peaceful means. This is not something I came to later in life, I’ve never read Gandhi or Martin Luther King, it’s just always been my philosophy. In the 1960s I was part of the anti-war movement. While living in Washington, DC, I picketed the Whitehouse and was teargassed on the Pentagon lawn. Later, in Richmond, I was associated with SSOC (Southern Student Organizing Committee, pronounced like “sock.”). We were the southern equivalent of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) which was more of a northern group. I toyed with communism, even had my own “Little Red Book,” The Sayings of Chairman Mao, for a while., but outgrew that phase pretty quickly. Politically, I’m a social ultra-liberal and fiscal ultra-conservative.. I believe in what Woodrow Wilson once said, “I don’t want a government that takes care of me, I want a government that keeps other men’s hands off of me so that I can take care of myself.”
I believed then, and still believe today, that war is one of the few things in the universe that is truly evil.
When Dwight David Eisenhower ended his term as President of the USA in 1961, he gave a speech in which he warned of the dangers of what he called “the military industrial complex.”. As a military man himself, he’d seen the growth of war as a business, and a damned big one. The world today is full of manufacturers of the machinery of war. Almost all developed countries have companies that make and profit from war machinery. What happens to these companies if there’s no war anywhere on the planet? They go broke. And they and their stockholders simply can’t allow that, so they stir up regional and tribal conflicts to create and sustain a customer base. Can’t sell more guns, bullets, grenades, tanks, attack aircraft, missiles, etc., if no one is killing anyone else.
Making money from human misery and death is simply wrong, wrong no matter what religion or philosophy you profess. It is ironic that most religions preach peace, but more people have died in religious wars than for any other reason. Christians killing Muslims, Muslims killing “infidels,” even Buddhists, who should be the world’s most peaceful people, killing innocent Muslims in Myanmar. Most of this is caused by an “us and them”mentality. If you’re not one of “us”, you must be one of “them,” and we hate “them.”. Why? Because they’re not “us,” they’re different, and being different is bad, and they probably kill babies or do something else really bad. I think most of “us” and “them” just want to get by and be left alone.
“Thou shalt not kill,” is good advice, but very few heed it. I’ve read that a more accurate translation of that biblical commandment is “Thou shall not murder,” which has a subtle but important difference in meaning. Murder is unprovoked killing, and is rightly prohibited.
Is killing ever justified? I’d have to say “yes,” under certain circumstances. If an enraged man is pointing a gun at me with every indication that he intends to kill me, I’d have no reservations against shooting him first if there was no alternative, but I’d probably try to disable rather than kill. Yes, I’m a pacifist who doesn’t hate guns. I have no problem with guns used properly. Before my arrest, I had two guns, a Remington single-shot bolt action .22 rifle and a 9mm Beretta pistol. I had fun target shooting with them, but never fired either one at anything living, and never would. Both were gifts from my father who thought every young man should learn to handle a gun safely. He gave me the rifle when I was in my teens, and the pistol many years later.
Am I in favor of gun control? Yes. No individual has a realistic need for a machine gun, or semiautomatic rifle of any sort. Remember, when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, and for years after, the state of the art in firearms was the muzzle-loading rifle and single shot pistol. Multiple shot guns of any sort just didn’t exist. And those simple black powder guns were what the authors of the Second Amendment knew and had in mind; guns for hunting, defending the homestead, and for the fun and challenge of hitting targets at a distance. Oh, and for that vanished “gentleman’s sport” of dueling. They didn’t envision personals arsenals like many have accumulated today.
I’ve spent a lot of time in England and Germany, countries with tight regulation of firearms. I could live happily in either country without missing guns. I’m in favor of rational gun control in the USA.
I was just listening to the old Jefferson Airplane song Volunteers, which was one of the late Paul Kantner’s anthems calling for a new American revolution. When that song came out in the early 70s we all thought the revolution was coming in a few years. We envisioned America of the future as a sort of “electric Tibet,” to quote Tim Leary. Well, it didn’t happen. Today it finally seems to be happening, but slowly and against powerful opposition. The legalization of marijuana in all of Canada, the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal, and loosening of draconian drug laws in many US states are all steps in the right direction, but we still have governments that are far too repressive on people. My body belongs to me, not some government. “There shall be no property in human flesh.” I firmly believe that I have the right to do anything I want so long as it harms no one else. I’m not a Wiccan, but I admire the Wiccan philosophy, “An it harm none else, do what you will.”. That was written for Gerald Gardner, founder of Wicca, by Aleister Crowley, whose own motto was ” Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”. Crowley toned it down for Gardner, although to the knowledgeable it means exactly the same thing.
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348. Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-the-digital-era/