... [Buddhist practitioners are] able to live lives that allow us to self-identify as special, peaceful people in contrast to those awful, violent people out there. ... We’re able to create the illusion that we live in a bubble of peace and we start thinking, “If only everyone else could be just like me, the world would be as one!” We fail to see how we can’t be barefoot Zen hippies unless someone else is willing to be a tough-as-nails, jack-booted cop to make sure nobody messes with our fantasy world. That’s a shame. That’s us retreating from reality rather than confronting it.
This is a fascinating insight, one Brad has raised a number of times in the past before, and one that I also think sticks in the craw of people who consciously identify with Buddhism or "peace"/nonviolence generically. We depend for protection on the very things we deplore; without them, we don't get much of a chance to do anything. How to resolve this contradiction?
One way to do so is not to see it as a contradiction at all — to understand that each of these things exists in a specific way for a specific reason, and form part of a whole. This may be a little too abstract for most people, though, and it probably sounds like a cop-out to just about everyone. But the whole point of studying this stuff and performing the various disciplines is to confront reality, not retreat from it. Most anywhere you choose to live, there will be borders, armies, antagonists of one kind or another.
The difference, I guess, is to see these things as manifest, but not to see them as inevitable. In other words, they exist now and we have no choice in the matter, but we shouldn't lose sight of how it might be possible to eventually live with a little less of that.
I have a number of friends who either served or continue to serve in the armed forces, and I've done my best not to make them feel like my politics are a rebuke to their choices in life. I may get upset with the way we use (or misuse) or armies, but I keep that distinct from the people who enlist and who give a great deal of themselves — and sometimes, all and then some — to that endeavor. They don't take it lightly, and I don't take them lightly. I reserve my disgust for all those who take them, and us, lightly.