My Journey to Pacifism

By Bill Grimm

My name is Bill Grimm. I am not the first Bill Grimm. I had an uncle by that name. He was the only person who loved my dad when my dad was a child. He had curly hair and talent for music. He wanted to be a doctor. He decided to work on a government construction project that paid well. With the money he expected to go to medical school. The construction job paid well because it was dangerous. The job was constructing an air field on Wake Island in the Pacific.

This island was uninhabited but commonly known to be owned by Japan. The air field was to be used as a staging area for potential attacks on Japan. The Japanese, who were in the process of the Rape of Nanjing, had little hesitation to retake the island with military force. All the Americans but one were starved to death, during the course of the war. That one was not my uncle. I would never know him.
My dad would always treat the news of his death as though it happened yesterday.

My grandparents and dad always held the Japanese to blame. However, I also blame the US government who put him there and did not protect him. I don’t have much use for patriotism. When politicians write for money saying, “Dear Patriotic American,” I cringe. I do not own a flag.

When I went to college I studied Electrical Engineering. I wanted to design electronic machines, machines that people would like to use, machines that would make the world more delightful, machines that would help resolve illnesses. However, when I graduated in 1982, all I was offered were jobs in the military industry. I had been given the bait and switch. After a year of unemployment I sold myself to the Navy.

I worked at the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. I was told that this was a prestige position. I was told that I should be proud of serving my country. However, I wasn’t proud. I was ashamed.
I was then offered a way out. Keep working for the military, but feel guilty about it. Feeling guilty will make it all right. Right?

As one year turned into another, feeling guilty seemed only like a burden. I was offered the opportunity to go to graduate school to learn more of the technology of Electronic Warfare.
I turned it down and went instead to law school. I then flunked out of law school.

Eventually I did get a job in the Washington area that was not military. The boss was a tyrant, but it wasn’t military. At that point, I joined Meeting. At Meeting I found people of my kind. It was like coming home to a place I had not been before.

Over the next 20 years, the civilian sector in the Washington area continued a steady decline. My income dwindled with it.

At Meeting there was an organization similar to the Peace Learning Center. It taught non-violent conflict resolution. They had several tricks, too. One of these tricks was that if you are attacked just sit on the ground. I remembered this.

Once on a visit my brother attacked me in front of my family. He drove me with punches and slaps toward another uncle, an elderly uncle who had a metal walking cane he was not using.
I looked at the walking cane as my brother was hitting me and considered using it as a weapon.
I did not. Instead I remembered the Peace Learning Center trick. I sat on the floor.
He didn’t know what to do. He screamed and ran off.

My name is Bill Grimm. I am a pacifist.