This post is a continuation of the "Heroes in Their Own Words" theme that started with a translation of the Zamenhof's Declaration of Homaranism. Basically what I'm doing is finding and posting texts in which people who I consider to be heroes briefly describe their core beliefs. Ammon Hennacy was a self-described "Christian Anarchist". He spent 18 months in solitary confinement for resisting the draft during WWI, and was arrested over 30 times for picketing and tax evasion. Like Zamenhof, Hennacy lived a life that demonstrated a high degree of moral courage. He lived a life consistent with his ideals, and constantly propagandized against war even when it was obvious that his propaganda was incapable of effecting any major changes in the world. For this post I transcribed chapter 19 of Hennacy's autobiography, "The Book of Ammon" (pdf link). The book appears to be self-published and contains no copyright notice, and it is almost certain that Hennacy would not object to my transcribing and posting it. The chapter, called "Questions and Answers," is basically an FAQ of Hennacy's opinions in the period from 1950 to 1964. I don't agree with all of Hennacy's positions, but I think they are all well worth reading and contemplating. There's nothing in the world as valuable as passionate people speaking on topics they're passionate about. What follows are not my words, but those of Hennacy (there are some spelling mistakes in the original that I have corrected without note, hopefully without introducing too many new ones at the same time):
1. Why do you deny the authority of the state and accept the authority of the Catholic Church?
Because I consider the function of the state as essentially exploitative and immoral with its denial of the Sermon on the Mount in the return of evil for evil in courts, prisons and war. While the Church in practice approves of exploitation and war this is not an essential doctrine of the Church but a perversion of what Christ taught and the early Christians lived.
Around 1845 Thoreau was asked to pay taxes to the Church and he refused, saying that he was not a member, and asked for a piece of paper on which he wrote, "I am signing off something I never joined." He then asked for another piece of paper on which he "signed off" from the state into which he was born but never joined. Likewise I have seceded from the state and give it very little. To churches where no bingo or gambling prevails I will give generously, but to commercialized churches I give a nickel.
When I became a Christian I did so because I felt Christ was a rebel against the same old eye for an eye policy which has made the world a shambles. When I became a Catholic later I did so because I was first drawn to the pacifist-anarchist policy of the Catholic Worker, and came to see like Karl Stern, that I brought with me into the Church all that was good from Tolstoy and Gandhi. So the Church that I joined was the real one founded by St. Peter who said to obey God rather than man. I accept the authority of the Pope on the essential matters of faith when he speaks ex Cathedra, but on matters like anarchism and pacifism where he differs I am free to follow my understanding of the Sermon on the Mount. In Boston Father Feeney said that no one but a Catholic could go to Heaven. That is the line in Spain but not in Boston, so he was excommunicated. On television here I was asked if I believed in the infallibility of the Pope and I answered that I did when he was infallible. When he talked through his hat his opinion could be no better than that of anyone else. So his views on Franco, Communism, war, etc. are worth as much as they are worth in fact, and no sanctity need be given to them.
If I go to the wall and push a button which says light, another which says heat, and another which says refrigeration and I get the results expected I do not tear down the wall to see how the wires are put together, for, not being an electrician, I could not put them back together again. I accept the word of the electrician and leave the wiring as it is. But I do not take the word of the electrician about Franco, war, capitalism, etc. Likewise I accept what the Holy Father says about the Faith but not on matters of Franco, war, capitalism, etc.
The Church allows me more freedom than the state. The state has arrested me thirty times, and the Church through police only twice. Out of courtesy I will address the authorities of the state in good humor and announce my proposed acts of disobedience, but I have no hope nor intention of reforming the state. I try to live as a good Catholic and I have some hope that this leaven may help to bring to light the teachings of Christ and the early Christians and be a leaven in the commercialized mass of the Church.
There is no contradiction in my denial of the authority of the state and accepting that of the Church unless the Church makes me be a servant of the state in issues which I consider immoral, which please God, I hope I will never do.
2. Why do you refuse to pay taxes when Christ said render unto Caesar?
Dorothy Day gave the best short answer quoting St. Hilary, "The less you have of Caesar's the less you have to give to Caesar." THose who believe in rendering unto Caesar will still do so no matter what I may say. To those who may have a doubt I will give several thoughts to build up their "render unto God" instead of to Caesar. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment He told them that the first one was to love the Lord with all your heart and the second one was like unto it, to love your neighbor as yourself. "Who is my neighbor?" asked those who wished to argue. Then Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.
Again Jesus was taken up into a high mountain by the devil who told Him if He fell down and worshiped him He could have the whole world and in fact would not have to pay any taxes at all. Jesus told the devil to go back where he came from.
Then again He was asked if He believed in paying taxes to Caesar. In those days different districts had different money and the Jews had to change their money into that of Rome, so Jesus asked, not fora Jewish coin, but for a coin with which tribute was paid, saying "why tempt me?" Looking at the coin He asked whose image and superscription was there inscribed and was told that it was Caesar's. Those who tried to trick Him knew that if He said that taxes were to be paid to Caesar He would be attacked by the mobs who hated Caesar, and if He refused to pay taxes there would always be some traitor to turn Him in. His mission was not to fight Caesar as Barabbas had done, but it was to chase the moneychangers out of the Temple and to establish His own Church. Whether He winked as much as to say that any good Jew knew that Caesar did not deserve a thing as He said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's," or not, no one knows.
The U.S. government considers that I owe over a thousand dollars in income taxes and if I offered them a penny they would consider it an insult. Christ insulted Caesar when He offered Caesar a penny.
Once in Phoenix I had announced that on Monday I would picket the tax man for a week. On a Saturday night a policeman told me that I could not sell papers on a certain corner. I could have stood on my rights and insisted and spent the night and Sunday and Monday in jail and not been able to be on hand for my main battle. Jesus had to choose His battleground. Now it was also said to Pilate by Christ that he would have no power over Him unless it came from God. Despite what anyone says each of us has to decide for himself whether to put the emphasis upon pleasing Caesar or pleasing God. We may vary in our reasons for drawing the line here or there as to how much we render unto Caesar. I make my decision when I remember that Christ said to the woman caught in sin, "Let him without sin first cast a stone at her." I remember His "Forgive seventy times seven," which means no Caesar at all with all his courts, prisons and war.
3. What about Christ chasing the money changers out of the Temple? Does this not justify war?
Christ was "true God and true man." He was hungry and thirsty and He hungered and suffered and bled on the Cross. In this He was the man. He saw the Jewish Temple made a den of thieves and evil being done by hypocrites who kept the letter of the law -- taking legal advantage of the rate of exchange and of technicalities that the poor and untaught knew little about. As he suffered when scourged so did he suffer at this blasphemy and He chased the cattle that would not move without the lash. Whether He actually lashed the money changers or whether their guild made them flee we do not know. But we do know that He did not try to exterminate their families or to imprison and kill them. He used no man-made law against them. "Let him who is without sin first cast a stone." So Jesus was without sin and was the only one who had the right to chase the evil men out of the Temple. And for this among other things they killed Him.
Likewise during the agony in the garden when He knew that Peter, despite his protestation of great faith would soon betray Him those three times, His flesh was tired and He told Peter to sell his clothes and buy a sword. Peter said there were two swords. Jesus replied. "That is enough." Then when Malchus was arresting Jesus, Peter took one of the swords and cut off the ear of Malchus. Jesus was God and He did not tell Peter to cut off the other ear, but performed his last miracle by healing the ear. He then disarmed Peter and all of us by saying, "Put up again thy sword into its place; for all that take the sword shall perish by the sword."
The whole essence of the Sermon on the Mount is to love the enemy, to turn the other cheek, and to return good for evil. The enemies of the Jews were the Romans. Jesus did not join with the Macabees and Barabbas in violent insurrection against the government. He did not show any hatred toward them and even said that if a Jew was asked according to Roman law to carry the pack of a soldier one mile, he should cheerfully carry it two miles instead of grouching about the one mile. What aroused His anger was hypocrisy in the Synagogue. Jesus knew that to exchange a Roman despot for a Jewish despot was not worth dying for. He had a better way which was to overcome the enemy permanently by love. Today we find those who trust in violence, both in the courts and in war, who justify this violence by quoting this passage about the chasing of the money changers out of the Temple. If they would take it in its context they would look at the Churches today with their bingo and selling of chances and charge of admission at the door, all to keep up a big show, and know that He would overturn these tables also.
4. What would you do if Russia attacked us?
Kneel and pray for our sins that have brought the attack upon us; and pray for the Russians.
We have scattered obliteration bombing on Bremen, Hamburg, Tokyo, and atomic death in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we continue our atomic testing which spreads Strontium 90 over the world. We have spread death over Europe in two wars; now we will learn what it all means here at home. We have taken the sword and now we are dying by the sword. In Dugway, Utah at the U.S. Proving Ground in 1960 "a healthy rabbit died in seventy seconds after a military scientist had placed a droplet of an unnamed nerve agent in the animal's eye. Sparky, a black mongrel in a glass-enclosed cage, was instantly paralyzed -- and rendered painless -- when an aerosol was 'vented' into the air he breathed," this being all a part of our chemical, bacteriological and radiological warfare.
"He wins who gets there fustest with the mostest," said a Southern leader in the Civil War. If we believe in the military way of life we ought to be armed with the most terrible weapons and have the facility of using them quicker than the enemy. To be inefficiently armed is not to be a pacifist. To disarm without ceasing our exploitation would be foolish for we are told in scripture that he who hath great possessions keepeth them by being well armed until he who is stronger taketh them from him, but to trust in the Lord and spiritual values rather than in much possessions. A clean about face toward the principles of love and brotherhood of the early Christians is needed. And we are the nation least probable to acknowledge our sins and repent. The whole history of our country has been militaristic from the time we tried to exterminate the Indians to our Mexican and Spanish American wars. And our dollar diplomacy in the banana republics and our stranglehold through loans to most of the South American countries is a scandal, let alone our support of Franco, Salazar, Chiang, and until their overthrow seemed at hand, of Batista and Trujillo. We have spoken for years of the natural result of capitalist imperialism and of the need to expand. As Randolph Bourne said, "war is the health of the state." Even if now war has become suicidal our exploiters must needs live up to the tradition of all exploiters.
So if Russia attacked us with missiles or atom bombs all that we would do, if by some miracle we would be alive, is to help those nearest to us in whatever way we could. We would obey any necessary routing or traffic regulations but it is likely that we would find it necessary to circumvent the red tape of the bureaucrats and help people on our own as we did during the depression and as we do now. By our contact with the enemy we would not show fear or hatred and by our actions we would try to make them ashamed of their oppressive tactics, but we wouldn't "preach" to them. With Wall Street destroyed maybe some of us could get together in small communes and live like we ought to without exploitation or government, but by mutual consent.
5. You are not Catholics, you are Communists
Call up the Chancery office in New York City and they will tell you that we are Catholics and that they are not for or against us. We are members of the Catholic Press Association for twenty-seven years and this would not continue if we were Communists.
Now as to being Communists it is true that we accept the Marxian analysis of what is the matter with capitalist society, but as to what is to be done about it we differ. Communists want the state to do everything, and after the dictatorship of the proletariat the state will wither away and we will have the stateless society, which is anarchism. The anarchists don't believe in any state at all and they agree with the Lord Acton that "power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely."
With the Communists we believe in (1) The Economic Interpretation of History, which means that for the most part the way people make their living determines how they think. As the western Catholic sheepherder who clips wool and the Wall Street Catholic broker who clips coupons: they pray the same but they think differently about life. (2) Surplus Value. If I earn $40 a day for my boss and get $10 in wages I can only buy back $10 worth and the balance piles up and we have depressions and wars. (3) The Class Struggle. Between those who work for a living and those who own for a living there is a struggle and we are on the side of the have-nots; and we choose to live poor among them and help them fight in a non-violent way and a non-political way against exploiters. And where those who run the Church side with the exploiters we oppose them and side with the exploited even if they are Communists, being critical of them as anarchists and pacifists should be, but with sympathy.
6. You are not practical
I am the most practical fellow you can find. The dictionary says being practical is "pertaining or relating to practice or action." You might say that we anarchists are the original "do-it-yourself" folks, for we do not depend upon politicians and bureaucrats to do things for us.
Being an anarchist means being responsible for the needs of yourself and others without being told or ordered by authorities. While walking to the Post Office one morning for the mail I saw a block ahead of me a two by four full of spikes fall from a truck into the middle of the street right at a cross walk. Dozens of cars whizzed by and scores of pedestrians edged around it but no one picked it up, for they didn't put it there, and neither did I. But I picked it up and put it in the container for waste by the curb. Another time when I had been fasting for ten days and picketing the tax man here in New York City I noticed a huge bale of paper junk fall from the rear of a truck int the middle of the intersection at Varick and West Houston Streets. No one did anything about it until I laid aside my sign and pushing with my shoulder with all my might I finally edged it over to the curb. Likewise when walking the roads in the country I always removed nails glass, dead cats, limbs of trees etc., which would impede traffic, so that I think the government owes me money for my scavenger work. I do not feel a bit guilty in using the roads for which I pay no income tax to build.
If being practical means piling up money and worrying yourself sick saving for a sick day, or to retire with your ulcer then I am not practical. If organizing thousands of people into a group promising to do good, or pledging themselves to revolutionary action is practical, then I am not practical. When I have been picketing the tax office I did not need a committee to coordinate or regulate me, for I can organize myself. This is what the one-man revolution is supposed to do.
7. You Catholic Workers knock the bourgeois society yet you depend upon donations from the bourgeois to feed you
Who else lives among the poor twenty-four hours a day? Sure, "we comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" until the latter shell out voluntarily to help us do the things that need to be done, that the state neglects to do. We do get money in small bits from many people who are poor; very little of our money comes in large amounts. We refused to apply to a large foundation that offered us money, and we returned $3,500 interest to the City of New York because we did not believe in interest. One millionaire gave us a thousand dollars for Christmas for helping someone he had known on the Bowery. The next year he wanted to give us more and wondered if it was deductible from his income tax. We told him that we were not an "accredited" charity organization, and that he would have to give from his heart and not from his deductible surplus. We didn't get it.
We couldn't live in this society and get our money from anyone else; and whatever money we as writers or speakers get we turn in to feed the poor.
8. How are you going to run things without cops and soldiers if we abolished them tomorrow?
We are not going to do anything tomorrow or the next day except perhaps die from the atom bomb. The welfare state is here to feed us with bread and circuses into complete senility. Even then no one is ever going to get all people to think alike -- the Catholic Church has been trying it for two thousand years and they have millions saying the same words but their quality is nothing to boast about. for as the Indians said, "If everyone thought the same everyone would want my wife."
This wholesale mass idea of ding things is what is the matter with this world. There will be cops and soldiers for a long time yet. I have already resigned from the need of cops or soldiers to protect me for I rely on a greater power. Obviously if I do not believe in voting or shooting, I or a million like myself, could not begin to think of overturning society. What I have done is to remove the need of my dependence upon these instruments of violence.
Democrats and Republicans do not make good anarchists. When we have enough pacifist anarchists in any geographical area who resign from the state and its coercive measures then we will begin to have a small anarchist society. The radical Hopi Indians have had it for centuries without being anarchists in the true sense of the word for their action comes more from a communal tradition.
There is no reason why people interested in the transportation industry could not meet in local, regional, national and international conventions, much as chess players, scientists and others do, and discuss how best to solve the problems of transportation in any given area or weather condition. A railroader, a truck drive, an airplane pilot, and a steamboat man all are prejudiced as to the efficiency of their own way of travel. But when profits are not the measure, but service, then the true solution can be arrived at. Not by baby kissers or banjo players or lame ducks appointed to commissions to regulate commerce, but by the very men who do the work. A decoration of, say, The Order of Frank Lloyd Wright, would be a greater incentive than political glory. Anything that the government does, except make war, all of us could do if we got the idea of doing it, and we could do it better.
9. Why are you so critical of other people? Is this kind?
There is a great difference between kindness and weakness. To give a derelict a "dime for coffee" because you are too weak to say no, knowing that it is for liquor, or to give money for carfare when a walk of a mile for an able bodied young man would help to waken him up a little, is also weakness. Sometimes we act through stupidity. In Salt Lake City at our Joe Hill mission a red faced town bum and an anemic whitefaced old man asked me for 80 cents for carfare to go to the bloodbank to sell their blood. They promised faithfully to pay me back that afternoon. I have no regular donors who give me money to pay the rent and utilities and could really not spare even that amount, but I gave it to them. They would not take blood from the old man for he had hardly a pint in him to work on, let alone any to sell, and, of course, the town bum never showed up again. How stupid can a fellow get? With all of my experience I should have known better. To make a decision is a sign of growth, but any of us postpone decisions for we cannot accept the idea that we might be wrong. No matter how humble we may appear, our basic motivation here is pride, and not the humility and kindness that we front to the public.
"I was just going to ask you for a dime," said a well-heeled non-Catholic acquaintance of mine to a young man on the Bowery who had just asked him for a dime for a cup of coffee. The young man looked dazed, stammered a bit, and reaching his pocket took out a dime and a nickel and handed my friend a dime. This was too much for my friend whose conscience hurt him. He ran after the derelict saying, "Here I'll trade you the dime for this quarter," which he did.
The moral, as I told my friend, is not to be sentimental and weakminded. My friend robbed the derelict on the Bowery of whatever faith in human nature he might have had. To do one good deed that day would have perhaps built him up, but now he would think, "I have met another phony."
There are people who have been babied by their relatives and as they whine their way through life most people are too "kind" to jerk them to their feet. One such person stumbled up to me, tramping on my toes and excusing himself by saying that he hoped he was not in the way. I told him he sure as hell was. And what could he do to help. I told him he could keep out of my way and sit in a corner. I said this in an alert manner and not with venom, and finally after some years there is no animosity between us. It was not unkind of me to educate this young man to be less rather than more of a nuisance. To encourage nit wits is not to help them. Useless conversation just to be saying something is the worst waste of time. The congenital blabber-mouth, even of pious words, needs conversation like I need a third eyebrow. In our office and in every city where I have lived, there is one or more such meddlesome pious souls sputtering superlatives to cover up their ignorance. They cannot be squelched, but it is weakness and not kindness to encourage them.
There are too many "Uncle Toms" who by their sycophantic attitude mess up values. I have met ones who praise me and agree with me when I know that they have just the faintest idea of what it is all about. These phonies do not need encouragement.
There are able men who are basically sentimentalists. They enthuse about "the revolution" or they are trigger happy about "dying for Christ" in some protest, but when it rains they run for cover, "to live again to runaway another day." These folks are not insincere, but they clutter up any movement with their bubbling froth which soon settles down.
Then there is the clever manipulator who is sincere, but who is determined never to sweat overmuch or to neglect being paid for overtime if by chance he is found on the job after the whistle blows. To contrast these pie-cards of today with Debs, Mother Bloor, Mother Jones, and Bill Haywood, is to know the difference between the real McCoy and the counterfeit.
I have worked with radicals in and out of jails for half a century. There is not one of them whom I have met that I would not gladly meet and work with again, but there are several who are hard for me to take, and a little bit of them goes a long way.
Walking through our office just now I notice a score of derelicts, each one of whom if you take them by themselves with even the doctored history which they have seen fit to tell us, cannot be blamed overly much. They are weak and they have been buffeted by "the system." To these folks I am not critical, but neither do I fall for their alibis, but good naturedly refuse them.
In a mushy atmosphere of pollyana optimism anyone who clears the air by calling things by their right names and facing facts runs the chance of being called arrogant and egoistic. This could be, but I submit that if taken as a part of my whole life and philosophy I have, by placing myself in a limited pacifist-anarchist-Catholic sphere, put myself in a glass house. If so I must needs take whatever stones come my way. I have the right by my life of integrity to criticize, but I must also take whatever criticism comes my way in all good humor. If I hand it out I have to take it.
When speaking at a Catholic girl's high school in Tucson I had occasion to deflate an arrogant young priest who was misquoting Christ. A girl brought up on respect for the Cloth was amazed and innocently asked me, "Mr. Hennacy, do you think that you are better than other people?" "Sure, but I have too good manners to say so," I replied.
Another time a spoiled and arrogant priest wanted to know if I was "holier than thou." I told him that I hoped by Christ I was, for if I wasn't I would be in a hell of a fix. I used this blunt method to deflate his spurious piety.
Those who criticize me for criticizing others, are themselves criticizing, and by what right are they above criticism themselves. I do not claim to be above criticism; I am not going to allow such accusations to keep me from exposing fraud.
10. Why do you fast in public when Christ said to do this in secret in your closet?
If I was doing this for any vainglory it would be terrible, but it is, like the small top of the iceberg appearing above the water, only an indication of the huge mass beneath. It is only the result of a dedicated life which appears because of an emergency in the war mad world meant to say "Danger" to those about to be wrecked. You can't obey all scripture at once. You have to choose. Christ also said to "shout from the housetops," and "not to hide your light under a bushel." If I did not speak and fast the very stones would cry out.
I also fasted before I was a Catholic. I do this as a penance for all of our sins. I do not do it to coerce or embarrass my enemy the government, and the tax and war officials. I do it to waken up the timid pacifists who know better and don't do better. Someone has to raise the ante of what should be expected of a Christian and a Catholic. Talk is cheap and in this gluttonous world fasting can be a means of waking up some people.
If anyone thinks the mainspring of my action is egotism I would ask by what measure they value their own actions. I am willing to be judged as a man, not a mouse, by my fruits, both now and hereafter. My message is not meant for those unable to receive it.
11. Why don't you work like other men do?
I could answer this in these days of automation with the old wobblie refrain, "How in the hell can I work when there is no work to do?" for they work for companies where a withholding tax is taken from their pay for war. I have to bootleg my work and work by the day where there is no tax taken out, such as migrant work or in self made jobs such as speaking in colleges and schools.
I work for my keep just now here at the CW, getting up early for the mail, recording my income, answering letters, selling CWs each day on the streets, which is much harder than walking around; speaking upon call at the office to visitors, and when called upon to do so traveling over the country. Now, since November of 1961, I am in Salt Lake City directing the Joe Hill House of Hospitality and St. Joseph's Refuge, collecting food daily to feed thousands who come here from the freights. I will describe this elsewhere in more detail in this book. If anyone thinks that sleeping on the floor by the door with from thirty to fifty people snoring, coughing, mumbling in the after effects of liquor, answering the door a dozen times a night as drunks pound for entrance is fun, let them try it.
I am sixty none and I do not ask the state for any social security or old age pension. I have worked up to the age of nineteen on a farm, and eleven years not long ago at stoop labor on the ranches of the southwest. I have worked eleven years in Milwaukee as a social worker, and six years on a farm near there. I fast and picket the tax office each year and several times have fasted for over forty days and picketed. If you think this is easy work, try it.
12. Christ ate meat. Do you think you are better than Christ by not eating meat?
If He hadn't eaten fish He would have had a hard time; that's what His disciples were for the most part; fishermen. I am a vegetarian for sentimental reasons: I don't like to kill animals and I don't want someone else to do it for me. And for pacifistic reasons I won't kill capitalists.
John the Baptist, Buddha, Gandhi, and the Trappists, Camaldolese and other Orders are vegetarians. It is a matter of where a person draws the line. The Essenes of Christ's time were vegetarians and He did not reprimand them. He was asked why He and His disciples did not fast as John's disciples did. He reached a different class of people: wine-bibbers and gluttons for whom the Gospel was also meant.
In old English law a butcher is not allowed on a murder jury for fear that his occupation as a killer would make him too hard hearted towards the prisoner before the court. Primitive man had to kill and eat or starve to death. He had no supermarkets where he could buy vegetables. Outside of the Eskimos who have little vegetation there is no excuse for modern man consuming so much meat. And doctored up before they are killed to produce more fat and preserved by questionable chemicals. The eating of these fowl and animals is not conducive to spiritual or bodily health.
Those who wish to kill their own animals for food are welcome to do so, and for those who wish to be kind to animals the best advice is the vegetarian slogan: "Be kind to animals by not eating them."
There is the cartoon of the Father Bear with a gun pointed at the hunter who is asking for mercy because "of my wife and children at home." The bear replied that the hunter had killed his wife and children, not for food, but only to show off to his friends. "I won't do it again," promised the man. "You won't have a chance to do it again," said the bear as he aimed his gun.
13. Why don't you vote for the good man for office? You just help the bad man by your negative attitude.
A good man is worse than a bad man for he finds a good reason for doing a bad thing that a bad man couldn't figure out, so he lends his goodness to evil. The devil doesn't have horns, he has a halo as big as a hoop. We elected Wilson to keep us out of war, and Roosevelt when he said, "I tell you again, and again, and again, that no boys will be sent across to foreign soil."
A good man cannot get any legislation passed or enforced unless he plays ball with the bad men who have a head start on him and surround him. He has to vote for their post office, harbor graft, or other larceny minded bills to even get his bill out of committee.
I only voted once in my life and that was in 1916 when I voted for Allan Benson, the Socialist candidate for President, who was against the war. And before I was out of Atlanta Prison, Benson was for the war. I might as well have stayed home. My capitalistic brother is not a pacifist nor an anarchist, but he had sense enough never to vote in his life, as he does not trust politicians.
In 1960, I was asked to run for Vice President on the Vegetarian ticket, but of course I refused to do so. Both major party candidates believe in the return of evil for evil in courts, prisons and war. The Socialist parties believe in violence and Socialism, so as a pacifist and an anarchist I could not vote for them.
I have already seceded from the idea of government. If I voted for a pacifist and he was not elected, I would be honor bound to obey the winner, whom of course, this time (1960) would either be Kennedy or Nixon, both of whom believe in greater armaments and in war as a means of defeating Communism, although, of course, they say they believe in peace. I vote every day by my anarchistic actions.
14. Would you defend someone dear to you who is being attacked?
Christ was defended by Peter who cut off the ear of the attacker. Christ gave the answer when He said, "Put up thy sword; he that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword."
Pacifism does not mean to stand by and do nothing. It means to do something: to use the strongest weapon, spiritual force, rather than the weaker weapon, violence. But you can't use it if you don't have it. First, you must not be afraid, for even animals can smell fear. Second, you must feel that there is good in your attacker. Third, you must have the agility of mind to speak sincerely without preaching in "very few words" that will deflect the violence. This can't be learned from a book. It has to flow from a life of integrity, with the minimum of show-off. If you invade an army camp you must not expect them to act like pacifists toward you; you are asking for trouble.
I hope I would defend those dear to me as I have defended myself many times, by spiritual understanding rather than by violence. But none of us can be sure until the last chapter how we will actually act in a given circumstance. My friend Bayard Rustin was asked this question, and he said that once he acted in one way and once he acted in another way. He was in a barricaded cabin in the deep South with other Negroes where the surrounding KKK were masked ready to lynch them. Bayard opened the door and stood with folded arms, saying, "You came here to lynch us; start with me." They went home in shame. If he had spoken in anger and called them bastards he would not have won. Another time he was in a taxi on the Bowery and he saw a Negro being beaten by two white men. He jumped out and kicked and hit the white men in the appropriate places and drew the Negro in the taxi away to safety. My friend Ned Richards was in the Near East at the time of Word War I. He was a young man doing missionary work and was the oldest male among women and children at the time when a crazy Armenian was standing on a hill nearby and shooting at each one as they came out of the house. After a time Ned walked with hand outstretched, a perfect target, up the hill to the Armenian whose gun was pointed at him. The Armenian handed him the gun and commenced to weep.
An AP dispatch tells in Bloomington, Illinois in 1936 of two bandits who held up a small restaurant where a girl and her father were the owners. The girl asked them why they held the place up. They said they were hungry. "Sit down and eat," she said. "You will call the cops," he replied. "You are between me and the phone and the cop went by half an hour ago," was her answer. They ate and whispered and returned the money. If she had screamed when they came in she would likely have been shot as well as robbed. Another time two robbers held up a filling station run by Father Divine's followers in Philadelphia. "Peace, Brother," said the attendants when told by the robbers, "Your money or your life." However, the guns were brandished or whatever the admonition was to hand over the money, all that the men said was "Peace, Brother." It was impossible to rob such people, so the robbers went away.