Since almost one hundred years, we are used to some powerful United States. With a decisive military contribution between the two world wars, with a planetary role of a gendarme of the regional balances, the leader of the most enduring political and military alliance in the last half of the century, ‘the most powerful nation of the world’ knows to make itself heard by the force of the arms. Its military superiority depends, first of all, on the technological primacy, based on the efficiency of the economic system and on the research competitiveness. But a war is still won by human involvement, therefore by heroism. If we look without idealizing, we’ll see that heroism is generally very cruel. We’ll see that it is assessed most of the times by the number of the eliminated opponents. Therefore, by an exacerbation of the violence. At the same time, we shouldn’t forget that arms are an everyday reality in the American people’s life (an exception in the Western civilization of today). Therefore, violence is more decisive in the social imaginary than elsewhere. Human being is fundamentally violent, but the various civilizations have tried to circumscribe, in different ways, this potential. The postwar Europe, at least, has seen the impact of the pacifist movements who were a significant flat in the circumstances of the Cold War. Of course, the traumatizing memory of the slaughters caused by the two world wars was important, too. Even if a certain doze of political naivety didn’t miss, the resort was a humanist one, in the attempt to limit an aggressiveness boosted by the competition on the resources. The two trends, heroic and pacifist, coexisted, often accusing each other in the most disgraceful terms. Some people invoked the hypocrisy of a Cristian civilization based on neo-colonialism and sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, while others invoked the much too high moral price paid by the non-belligerency.
However, beyond its ambiguities, heroism remained an important value and virtue. At least from the view of the sacrifice and courage, without which a fight is only an outlet of barbarism. But in the same time, a culture of the non-violent heroism raised, deriving from a Christian tradition which combined the ascetic domination of the own aggressiveness with altruism and overcoming the fear of death by the faith in eternal life. Sometimes, this pacific heroism manifested in the middle of a bloody conflict. Such a case became the subject of the last movie directed by Mel Gibson: ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ (photo). It’s about the real story of Desmond Doss, an Adventist who engaged voluntarily in the WW II, being a conscientious objector in the same time, namely refusing to use any weapon. As a nurse, he saved an impressive number of wounded in circumstances of an extreme danger, during the battles for the Okinawa Island. Risking hugely – the battles were so cruel that they were similar to a mutual extermination, especially because the Japanese soldiers, fanaticized since years by the militarist propaganda, had a kamikaze strategy, with the only goal of making as many victims as possible.
Desmond Doss – who died in 2006 – represented the other America, the one who was colonized by European fugitives persecuted on religious grounds in the old continent, who came to live more fully their beliefs, taking the Christian pacifism more seriously than other people. Some of them have contributed to the extermination of the Native Americans, cultivating the ideal of the ‘heroic’ gunman, while others have promoted non-violent values, with a powerful influence until today. Doss never put under question the legitimacy of that war, his volunteer enrollment being a proof in this regard. But he wanted to double the fight, with its inevitable victims, taking care to diminish its destructive force. He wished to save as many wounded, in other words he tried to humanize the conflict, fighting against the temptation to see the war as an inevitable exterminator. A wounded is a chance of life, not a convicted dying person. When saving a wounded involves a risk of death, we assist to an original heroism, from which hatred and aggressiveness are totally missing. Solicitude for others is strengthened by the risk of the own death. Undoubtedly, it’s a more pure sacrifice. Even if the war couldn’t be won otherwise than by an army consisting only in conscientious objectors like Doss. He was part of the exceptions, but his role wasn’t a marginal one, humanizing the view of his fellows on the war.
Therefore, there is also another America, different than the arrogant one, represented by presidents like the newly elected one. A Christian America, not a ‘cruciate’ one, like the one who propelled the former President Bush Jr., a neo-conservative warlike man too less concerned by the disasters of the exacerbated conflicts occurred at any cost. An America for which any man deserves care and for which peace is not a second hand value.