What’s a Conscientious Objector (CO)?

You may be asking yourself “Is it a cartridge?”  No, it’s not, OK. And no, it’s not another psychiatric diagnosis, a syndrome, or a chronic disease.  No, it’s not a secret code found in missing texts on papyrus buried under a rock near the river; but, it might be a code to be decoded–figured out– if someone thinks it’s a code

The letters C and O designate a term used mainly by the military services, but not excluding anyone else from using it–a label for someone who no longer wishes to engage in the systemic culture of war, violence and imperialism

Anyone–inside or outside the branches of the military services–may choose to be a CO; if your values and belief systems contra pose the process of militarism then you are a CO and stand in solidarity with other COs, as they do you as well

I was a CO in the Vietnam War Era from 1969-1971; this entire passage of time I was struggling with my own inner battle of Clinical Depression, partially due to resistance thrown my way by leadership personnel in the U.S. Army, as well as other recruits like myself

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this passage of time in my life, and I really wonder how I made it through everything I encountered by the military system–in my past, prior to being inducted–I had always been a very good David Copperfield type, escaping from situations, like MacGyver did, that looked like sure, abject failure for me

As of 2013 I’m in recovery for Chemical Dependency and Psychiatric Illness, but during this time of being the ungrateful guest of Uncle Sam, I didn’t relapse, unless you call swallowing down a whole box of cookies within fifteen minutes a relapse, I sadly waited it out, lonely and strange in a crooked land south of the Mason-Dixon Line, always thinking and analyzing the facts and my feelings, thinking maybe I was doing enough for myself/after a while I just go tired of this, and began to trust\little did I know I was beginning to practice the Buddhist teaching of inaction (not that I sat back and got fat eating chips on the couch), but inaction is more about one’s overall attitude towards life/practicing this facet of Buddhism gave me a new brain and the patient resilience to outwait my enemies

I came to discover that the possibilities of the Tao are infinitely more what I could think or dream up myself; Christian Theology says that nothing (not even being a CO in the Vietnam War) can separate us from divine, unconditional love\most of the world’s greatest faith traditions intone that, for the patient warrior, is made stronger in hardiness by facing our adversaries and learning from those who wish to harm us

This is the universal wisdom and core of all faiths

I found another helpful way to deal with being a CO: do what you can do, and let the rest float away like leaves on the river’s current

So how do you start this process?  AA tells us to do a fearless inventory of our shortcomings without beating ourselves into a bloody spot of grease on the pavement–that’s not the purpose of doing this kind of inventory–the purpose is to get real with ourselves and then live real/the inventory may include things you want no one else to know, and then to share your truth with one other human being/it’s in the doing of this that we may find healing

Prior to this, we need to spend time self-reflecting on how our lives are unmanageable by our addiction to _________________.  Find quiet, still places where you can teach yourself to blow the unconscious effluent away, and open up our inner ears to the voice found in the caves of our hearts, finding the golden light of our true selves

Accept and generously give yourself self-compassion, let judgment and denial drift aimlessly away; own your own clearings, and make amends where you can

© Christopher Bear-Beam August 19, 2012


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