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Emails to my Therapist

And I Thought I Was a Pacifist

Dear Nicholas, Just clicked to send a contribution to the Ukraine Army, for supplies including ammunition. Not a lot of money, but the fact that I’d do such a thing at all makes me think that in an important way I never knew myself. Never thought I would do such a thing. But I fiercely want the Ukrainians to defend their land and win.



I am so impressed by the Ukrainians’ defense of their country. I like to think that if I were one of them, I’d be fighting too. But what do I know about myself? Only a couple of days ago, I thought I was a pacifist and war a crime.

The Impulse to Fight Back

But the two times I have been attacked–once in Bogota and once in Quebec City–I reflexively fought back. Fortunately, neither man had a gun and both gave up pretty easily.

My family tradition, which is to say training, in such matters has been mixed. My grandfather, who grew up hunting for food, served in both world wars and kept a rack of rifles next to his peacetime desk at home.

My father, who never much liked guns, served in World War II in the Pacific as first officer on Army Transport ships, the hospital and supply ship fleet.

My father, Harry Payne

He would not carry a gun ashore as required unless he was with a superior officer. He never wanted my brothers to have guns of any sort.

My ancient relatives fought in the American Revolution (both sides) and the Civil War (wrong side.) Well, I’ve always felt that my native South was the wrong side in that war, but now that I think about it, my relatives were fighting off invaders. So maybe I can understand their actions a little more.


Blind Early Confidence

When I was a student, I failed to protest the Viet Nam War. That was back when I thought, no doubt because I was fortunate, that the world was pretty well run, that the government told the truth, and surely there must be a good reason for us to be fighting a war. I was wrong. Since then–up until the past week– I’ve been against anyone shooting at anyone. And opposed to the death penalty in any circumstance.


Combat training In Ukraine

But with this attack on Ukraine, I want the Ukrainians to shoot back.  (Though I do feel bad for Russian soldiers who have been forced into this fight)


Kiev, Ukraine

Given that I support the Ukrainians, do I want my country to send troops? Briefly, I thought maybe so. But then I realized that I could never support my young nephews having to go and fight. No! I don’t want them to pick up guns anywhere.

So I find myself in the not especially heroic position of wanting to stay safe, keep my loved ones safe, and have Ukraine magically safe and peacefully independent. Philosophically, I guess my stand is 1. self-protective 2. against anyone shooting first.

Buying Bullets

Fraud alert: I just got a notice from my credit card company that the site where I tried to send money to the Ukrainian army was a fraud. Now I’m not sure what site to trust. I must get this pittance to them: my not-so-valiant effort. (Looking at images of fighting, I’m already starting to question my choice to support fighting. Is it simply my rash anger? Is there a better way that will work?) If you have an address you know is reliable, I’d love to know. The ones that have been recommended to me look exactly like the one that was a fraud. Or was the fraud alert a fraud? Must find a way.

I’ll deal later with the considerably less urgent matter of whether I know myself at all.






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  • Lee Grohse
    March 1, 2022 at 12:53 pm Reply

    We humans operate on so many levels. And this is one of those awful, dangerous times when thoughtful people grapple with reconciling our higher order judgment with our primitive biological imperative to protect ourselves and those we identify as ours. Only the saints turn the other cheek in the face of actual physical attack. That’s why they get statues and we keep their toe bones in churches. The rest of us mammals get mad as hell and fight like badgers. And we’re social mammals who include our people, whoever they are -Ukrainians at the moment-in that fight for survival circle. And we’re complex higher order thinkers. When we are comfortably not under threat, we organize our thinking around social, politics, moral tenets and adopt theoretical positions about aggression, war, and personal and national behavior. We use that thinking part to tell ourselves that’s who we are. I can’t imagine anyone completely reconciling being a badger, a tribe member defending your people, a spiritual person aspiring to sainthood, and an intellectual with a well thought out framework for evaluating right and wrong. I imagine the best most of us will ever be able to do is to think and plan when we can, respond when we still have time, and fight for our lives when we must.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 1, 2022 at 3:52 pm Reply

      Beautifully thought-out and expressed, Lee. Should be published in some lofty periodical for all of us to see just now. Thank you for this. And I love the toe bones and agree with you, BTW.

  • Brent Bill
    March 1, 2022 at 3:14 pm Reply

    These are the times that try a pacifist’s soul. At least mine. I do have admiration for those who fighting to save their country. I have even more for those who are doing so non-violently — putting their bodies in front of tanks, gathering together to block convoys, etc. I didn’t sent $ to buy munitions, but I did send money to the Mennonite Central Committee for humanitarian relief.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 1, 2022 at 4:47 pm Reply

      Yes, the one who’s unarmed in front of the tank is bravest of all. And I too admire all of those who are resisting. I’m not even sure I’d resist. I never could find a reliable place to fund the army and instead sent my $ to the International Rescue Committee to help refugees. My relatives in Poland (who are bringing this war a little closer to home) have volunteered to take in a refugee family, though no one has yet appeared. I would simply like this to go the way of the Cuban missile crisis, though it’s a bit late for that.

  • Karen Corrigan
    March 1, 2022 at 3:18 pm Reply

    I think it is easy to be a pacifist when you don’t worry about being attacked by a country that wants what you have. Not sure that is us anymore. I am a pacifist who would love everyone to just live in peace but I know that will never happen so I will fight if I can (I am old) in any way I can for the safety of my country, my loved ones and myself. I feel sick watching what is going on on the Ukraine, Putin needs to be removed. If he takes the Ukraine, he will not stop. All the countries need to help the Ukrainians in any way they can. If it is arms and bombs, let’s do it. Ukraine cannot lose. If they do, God help the rest of the world.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 1, 2022 at 4:46 pm Reply

      I’m where you are, Karen. It’s the first time that “the domino theory” has seemed to me more than a speculation and a rationalization. I want the Russian people to rise up and remove Putin, not an easy task.

  • March 1, 2022 at 6:42 pm Reply
  • Shirley Jennett
    March 1, 2022 at 7:23 pm Reply

    Can’t believe anyone would set up a fake website to scam money meant to ease the horrors in Ukraine. That has to be a new low and on a parallel with Putin and those who think like him…or don’t think.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 1, 2022 at 7:44 pm Reply

      I hear, Shirley, that there are quite a few of them and that it’s not uncommon for these to crop up when there’s a crisis. Yes, it’s troubling.

      • Karen Corrigan
        March 1, 2022 at 10:47 pm Reply

        Yes the devils come out after every disaster but so do the angels.

        • Peggy Payne
          March 1, 2022 at 11:46 pm Reply

          Good point. You’re right. And disasters do draw people together too.

  • Donna Ford
    March 1, 2022 at 8:41 pm Reply

    World Central Kitchen does so much at home and wherever needed. Food for the hungry, saving restaurants and jobs and building community. Hope. It’s a great gift!

    • Peggy Payne
      March 1, 2022 at 9:34 pm Reply

      Thanks, Donna!

  • Karen Corrigan
    March 1, 2022 at 10:48 pm Reply

    Is this my lovely niece???

  • March 1, 2022 at 11:20 pm Reply

    Thank you, Peggy. I found myself in your message. My father fought in the Army during WWII in the Philippines. He made it home alive, but might not have if Truman had not made the decision he did, about the atomic bombs. Every decision during war comes with consequences, most of which both help and harm. My heart aches for Ukraine and its people. I am delighted by the character and leadership power of its leader! Thanks to your reader who provided legitimate sites for donations.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 1, 2022 at 11:49 pm Reply

      Yes, and people are sending me more sites that I can add, Pat. I’m glad both our fathers made it home. You’re right about the mixed consequences of wartime decisions (maybe true of decisions in general, come to think of it.) I’d have had a hard time coming to Truman’s decision, but I’m not cut out to be president.

  • Robert Braxton
    March 2, 2022 at 2:32 am Reply

    Inviting you to join me in reading “The Poetry of Taras Shevcheno” THE COMPETE KOBZAR, translated by Peter Fedynsky, especially the introductory “the Artist as Poet and the Poet as Artist.” This is the first transation into Engish of the compete poems, two hundred years after the birth of the human being who single-handedly created Ukraine.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 2, 2022 at 11:56 pm Reply

      Fascinating! Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Bob.

  • Peggy Payne
    March 3, 2022 at 12:08 am Reply

    Another option for donating:

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