You think you know a lot about a particular subject only to discover you know didly squat! That happens to me quite a lot, probably because I ain’t payin’ that much attention in the first place. I figured I knew a lot about conscientious objectors from my Mennonite background. See, back when Catherine the Great invited the Mennonites to Russia, one of the concessions she made among others was an exemption from military service. That blanket agreement changed over time to mean alternative service in work camps, mainly forestry work, and work in the Red Cross, in hospitals and prisoner of war camps. The Mennonites went willingly into that voluntarily. Given their strong morals and work ethic (at that time), them buggers could work.
I never considered it other than what it was in Russia until the subject came up the other day. So I researched it on the internet. Holy crackers! It’s been goin’ on a long time. Some guy named Maximillius objected to a particular war in 295 B.C. Of course he was summarily executed and became a saint some time later. Well it was somewhat the same in WWI and WWII, depending where you were from, although in some cases you could claim conscientious objection based on religious beliefs and I imagine there was a bit of paperwork that went with that. Still there was a lot of executions.
The thing is that in Canada these Mennonites (at least) did a lot of heavy duty work like buildin’ roads clearin’ forests an’ so on. This ain’t no light work neither. They looked after prisoners of war, were nurses in hospitals where deranged people were kept an’ some even served with the Red Cross – all for fifty cents a day.
Yet they’re cast as cowards. They’ll not pick up weapons against another person, but they’re good enough to do all the grunt work left behind by the killers who went to war. I really don’t get it. Oh sure, in the 1940’s we had to get rid of the Nazis, no question about that, but every action since has not been a credible war. Besides which, the Nazis are back now in Canada and the U.S. among other places. Where are the soldiers now I’d like to know?
From up here on the top shelf, I can only shake my head an’ be thankful that I ain’t young no more.