Reaching

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Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for? — Robert Browning

My first Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign has been an eye-opener. We aimed for $10,000 and got 57% of the way by the end of the declared 60 day interval, which is pretty good but not good enough. However, we’re not stopping at 60 days. Indiegogo now allows fundraising campaigns to continue indefinitely, so we're keeping the donation page open and still aiming for a target of $10,000 and beyond.

I like to have a long reach, and I'm never afraid of falling short. Indeed, what's a heaven for? That's why I'm not only trying to raise $10,000 for pacifism but also attempting this morning to write something different and useful about the deeply disturbing rising problem of rampant gun violence around the world. This is a job for pacifism, of course, and I'm trying to explain this here. My main goal in this article is to find a fresh perspective on a terrible and frustrating problem about which the public dialogue has been completely disappointing, ineffective, banal and stale.

I'm suggesting that the great nonviolence resistance campaigns of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King can be used as models for a new approach to the current problem of gun violence — if and only if we have the strength to embrace the important philosophical ideals behind these campaigns. That's a big "if and only if", and I hope you'll read this article and either help to spread the idea or share your thoughts about what I am proposing. Your opinion is valued, whether you agree or disagree.

I've heard a lot of your opinions about war and peace since launching this fundraising campaign 60 days ago. I've had the amazing realization that raising money is only one of several positive results of a fundraising campaign. A second benefit is that supporting a cause makes donors feel connected to a project. I have previously given to other Indiegogo campaigns, so I know the feeling of ownership and personal commitment that occurs the moment we hit “send” on a donation of any size.

Now, for the first time I am on the receiving end of an Indiegogo campaign, and I now realize that this tremendous feeling of commitment between a donor and a campaign goes both ways. When you donate to me, I feel like you are entrusting me to use your money well. That feels like a big responsibility to me, and this fact is both heartening and humbling. It's a responsibility I will strive as hard as I possibly can to live up to.

There’s another even more important positive result of a fundraising campaign, though this result is not always painless: the feedback and honest critique that a fundraiser gets when a close friend or associate explains why he or she will not donate to this particular cause. This is a learning moment, and should be appreciated as such. I've now talked to several friends who decline to donate to Pacifism21 — not because they don’t like me or don’t believe in my ability to make this organization a success, but rather because they don't like the idea of pacifism itself.

This feedback is helping me focus and find my voice on the new site. I was surprised that one historical figure's name came up constantly when my friends explained why they dislike pacifism. Adolf Hitler has been dead 70 years, and yet it's clear to me from the conversations I've had in the past few weeks that Hitler is still alive and powerful in the imagination of many people I know. They are dead set against the idea of pacifism because they believe that pacifism cannot respond to the level of evil embodied in a historical figure like Adolf Hitler. Many of my friends also identify figures like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein or regimes like Iran or Daesh with Hitler's Nazi Germany, and fear that a new trend towards pacifism will make us weak against these newer kinds of enemies.

I was working on a Pacifism21 article yesterday that will begin to address the "Hitler objection" directly. This is a thorny and painful topic and I was in the thick of a particularly tough paragraph when I heard the news of yesterday's slaughter in San Bernardino, California and decided to switch gears from Hitler and write about pacifism and gun control instead. I'll soon return to my historical topic, and I hope I'll be spending time on both questions, which I see as related. How can pacifists respond to the level of ultimate evil represented by a historical figure like Hitler? And what can pacifists do to help the problem of gun violence? I think these two questions will keep Pacifism21 busy for a while.

The new site is also slowly growing in other ways. (I enjoy building websites. Can you tell?) We'll be expanding and refining an extensive vocabulary and taxonomy for peacebuilding, launching a new set of profiles of great living and historical pacifists, and somehow also trying to find time to branch out into relevant and critical issues like ecology, climate change and privacy as they relate to issues of war and peace.

We'd also like to be able to respond to breaking news as it occurs, and to better fill out the social media side of this venture. It's clear that I'll need to expand the Pacifism21 team in order to cover everything we should cover, and another purpose of our fundraising campaign is to allow the organization to expand to the size needed to adequately cover all the topics in our domain.

All of this will take a lot of effort, and that's okay. I’ve told you before that Pacifism21 is going to be around a long, long time. We're going to be slow getting started, but we plan to be here either forever, or until world peace happens. Whichever comes first.

Since our official 60 day Indiegogo campaign is now over, I'll be sending out perks to all of you nice people who have donated, and I'm really looking forward to sharing the cool stuff we've got with you! If you haven't donated yet, please do, and our perk offers will remain active. Thanks for your help and support. We're going to need a long, long reach to make a difference in our difficult world, and it seems the most important thing at this point is that we remain here to keep reaching ... whether we exceed our grasp or not.

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