...he had to reach out and grapple with the violence, but he did that
with all the people around him. These second World War vets, you know, on
medical disabilities and all drunked up; the house was filled with violence,
which Ammon, as a pacifist, dealt with - every moment, every day of his life.
He said, "You got to be a pacifist." I said, "Why?" He said, "It'll save your
life." And my behavior was very violent then.
I said, "What is it?" And he said, "Well I can't give you a book by Gandhi -
you wouldn't understand it. I can't give you a list of rules that if you sign
it you're a pacifist." He said, "You look at it like booze. You know,
alcoholism will kill somebody, until they finally get the courage to sit in a
circle of people like that and put their hand up in the air and say, 'Hi, my
name's Utah, I'm an alcoholic.' And then you can begin to deal with the
behavior, you see, and have the people define it for you whose lives you've
He said, "It's the same with violence. You know, an alcoholic, they can be dry
for twenty years; they're never gonna sit in that circle and put their hand up
and say, 'Well, I'm not alcoholic anymore' - no, they're still gonna put their
hand up and say, 'Hi, my name's Utah, I'm an alcoholic.' It's the same with
violence. You gotta be able to put your hand in the air and acknowledge your
capacity for violence, and then deal with the behavior, and have the people
whose lives you messed with define that behavior for you, you see. And it's
not gonna go away - you're gonna be dealing with it every moment in every
situation for the rest of your life."
I said, "Okay, I'll try that," and Ammon said "It's not enough!"
I said: "Oh."
He said, "You were born a white man in mid-twentieth century industrial
America. You came into the world armed to the teeth with an arsenal of
weapons. The weapons of privilege, racial privilege, sexual privilege,
economic privilege. You wanna be a pacifist, it's not just giving up guns and
knives and clubs and fists and angry words, but giving up the weapons of
privilege, and going into the world completely disarmed. Try that."