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Pacifist in the War Zone

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Everyone has buttons that can be pressed, and I have one as big as a family-size pizza: war. I rail about state-supported murder; aiming and shooting at or bombing other humans; the enormous social, emotional, spiritual, and economic costs of armed conflict.Yet there I was, in Manassas, Virginia, on assignment as a journalist, visiting the site of the Battle of Manassas (known as Bull Run in the North) — the first major conflict of the Civil War. On July 21, 1861, locals came in high spirits with food-laden baskets; they were going to picnic and watch the skirmish in a war that they thought would last for a single day. Little did they suspect that the Civil War would bloody the landscape for four indelibly horrible years, terminating the lives of 620,000 Americans.I watched a film in the museum that showed, through re-enactment, how the battle was fought: in Napoleonic style, soldiers lined up abreast, walking toward the maw of the cannons. Boom! Some fell, and the rest continued. Boom! Boom! More died, and more marched on.It was that damn button. I tried to control my fulmination as I asked the guide h …

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