The 6 Most Aggressively Badass Things Done by Pacifists
Here at Cracked, we take pride in our quest to chronicle the history of human badassery, from soldiers who make movie heroes look like cowards to people with the ability to survive pretty much whatever the world throws at them.
But there's a special kind of badass that doesn't get as much attention, and that's the kind that overcomes horrific violence with nothing but willpower, skill, bravery, and (to be totally fair) a somewhat stupid disregard for personal safety.
Private Desmond Doss: Half Rudy, Half Rambo, All Pacifist
From his 1942 enlistment in the U.S. Army, Desmond Doss was a living contradiction. He was a Seventh Day Adventist pacifist there voluntarily, but even under direct orders, he refused to so much as hold a rifle. He did have the excuse that he was going to be serving as a field medic, but his commanding officer still tried unsuccessfully to get rid of him through Section 8. Doss also refused to work on Saturday, so he had to make up for it throughout the rest of the week.
The Army was not the gentle and accommodating organization we know and love today, and all of this being a special snowflake stuff did Doss basically no favors. While praying, his comrades would chide and throw shoes at him. One of his comrades even told him that when the troop went into battle, he would shoot Doss himself.
"Just not in the mustache."
Then came the May 1945 Battle of Okinawa. Doss and his group in the 307th Infantry were forced to climb a 400-foot cliff to attack entrenched Japanese troops. Once there, they received heavy resistance. This is where Doss went the pacifist version of totally berserk. According to his later citations, at one point Doss ran "through a shower of grenades to within eight yards of enemy forces." Over the course of the next two days, Doss provided medical services and pulled soldiers to safety, and was credited with saving the lives of 75 wounded, including the soldier who had threatened to kill him.
"P.S. Sorry about that. It was war, you know?"
On the second day, one of those grenades finally got him and severely wounded his legs. Doss dressed the wounds himself and then waited five hours for someone to come and get him. When they did, en route to the field hospital under tank fire, Doss gave up his stretcher and told his bearers to carry another wounded soldier instead, which is about the point where you stop being a "war hero" and start being a "show off." The universe rewarded his willingness to abandon his cot by hitting him in the arm with a bullet when someone else tried to carry him from the field. Doss then broke his private vow to never pick up a rifle and tied one to his arm as a splint, thus becoming the world's only badass Mega Man Cosplayer, if one of the less accurate ones.
Doss crawled several hundred yards to the field hospital from there, and for his over-the-top heroism, he became one of only two conscientious objectors in American military history to win the Medal of Honor, which his tragically sincere religious conviction probably prevented him from using as a ninja throwing star.
However, the Bible doesn't say anything about chakrams.
Reverend Newton Single-Handedly Stops a Violent Mob
In the 1970s and '80s, you probably wouldn't have expected that Los Angeles area reverend Bennie Newton would go on to perform a badass nonviolent act. This was because prior to his arrest, Newton was an armed robber, a drug dealer, and a pimp.
He dropped the loth for the cloth.
But then he was arrested and reformed, creating the Light of Love Ministry, as well as a company to help fellow ex-convicts get their act together. That company happened to be a carpet cleaning service, because real life is not above using contrivances straight out of some shitty Lifetime movie. And then, the LA riots happened.
In 1992, Newton was on his way to a peace rally. The police officers accused of beating Rodney King had just been acquitted, spurring the week-long race riots that would result in more than 50 deaths and 2,000 injuries.
And a Sublime song.
Newton ran into a particularly bad mob that had taken Guatemalan immigrant Fidel Lopez from his truck and robbed him of $2,000. Lopez was then hit in the head with speakers that nearly tore his ear off, kicked, and stripped, and he endured his genitals being spray-painted black. On top of all that, he was doused with gasoline, presumably to be set on fire. In other words, it was ministerin' time.
The Bible-wielding Newton, calling on his theological training, threw himself onto the soon-to-be-set-alight Lopez and shouted "Kill him, and you'll have to kill me, too!" The crowd was unwilling to murder a reverend on top of an immigrant, because even mobs have standards. Newton escorted Lopez to his truck, and, when no ambulances would risk driving out through the riot-ridden streets, drove Lopez to the hospital.
"Jesus! Do I have to do everything around here?"
Lopez and Newton stayed in touch, and when Newton was suffering from leukemia, Lopez often visited him at his bedside. The reverend passed away a year later, so we guess you could say that the LA riots turned out to be the final act in Newton's comeback story ... and you have to admit, it's not bad.
Richard Antrim Plays the Hero POW Without Firing a Shot
Because you've seen Rambo, you're going to think you know where the story of American POW Dick Antrim is going. But his brand of badassery serves as proof that you can be a hero without mowing down an enemy platoon with a belt-fed machine gun.
Or a magazine-fed one, dick.
After his ship was sunk by the Japanese navy, First Lieutenant Antrim (serving as executive officer) and the rest of the ship's survivors were brought to a POW camp. While there, Antrim saw (and we're quoting from his Medal of Honor citation here) a fellow officer "subjected to a vicious clubbing by a frenzied Japanese guard venting his insane wrath upon the helpless prisoner."
That's probably pretty terrifying for most people, but Antrim had just finished having the living crap bombed out of his ship, organizing lifeboats and supplies so that all but one of his men survived, and keeping his crew together through three straight days of floating in the Pacific Ocean. After that, he must've thought the guard's attempt to kill one of his men was, at best, cute.
"Awwwww, wook at the widdle guard. Somebody forgot their big boy pants today!"
In spite of the fact that this prison was apparently staffed with prison guards from a Stephen King book, Antrim interrupted the guard's attack and told him (with sign language, since he didn't speak Japanese) that he would take the other prisoner's beating for him. By his account, the guards were so shocked at his audacity that they not only backed down, but also put Antrim in charge of digging trenches, making the guards "bipolar" in addition to "vicious," "insane," and "frenzied."
Although he had already looked death in the face and smirked, Antrim took things one step further with his new duty by organizing the trenches so that they spelled "U.S." from the sky. This had two effects: First, it notified Allied bombers that this was a POW camp (thereby saving hundreds of lives), and second, it guaranteed that if the plan was ever found out, Antrim would've been executed. He knew this, and he clearly didn't give a shit, because he had his men to look after.
Ten years after his death in 1969, they named a ship after him, because you're goddamn right they did.
It's really more a scale model of his wang.
John Weir Foote: Action Chaplain!
In 1941, the Canadian army took part in the Dieppe Raid, the first major attempt to take troops across the English Channel. Cracked has covered how well the whole event went in general here, but let's focus more on the involvement of one individual, John Weir Foote, a Canadian chaplain who was badass before the shooting had even started.
Some people just can't turn it off.
Foote was not intended to take part in the raid, and when his commanding officer told him that he was going to sit this one out, Foote said that he'd have to be arrested to keep him away from the action, which means a bit more when you're speaking to someone with the power to arrest you. So he was assigned as a stretcher bearer.
During the Dieppe Raid, Foote pulled a Doss and helped carry 30 wounded soldiers to safety under fire, and provided them with morphine. During the retreat, Foote got a ride off the beach, which meant that he was being rescued from the Nazis, who weren't known for their powers of human empathy. But looking back at the surrendering soldiers, Doss changed his mind and disembarked, giving himself up.
"Can you take me to this Hitler fella? Maybe I can talk some sense into him."
He decided that the soldiers being taken to a Third Reich POW camp needed religious guidance more than a bunch of soldiers returning to base. Bear in mind, in August 1941, it was largely Great Britain against the Axis nations, and none of the great defeats that would eventually take the bad guys down had happened yet. So Foote was volunteering for an imprisonment that, as far he knew, could have been a life sentence. He did it anyway, because he thought that's where he was needed.
After three years' imprisonment with one serious escape attempt, Foote was released. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honor Her Majesty's Armies awarded. It was still way less than the honor he'd already provided them by joining.
Bayard Rustin Shows Martin Luther King Jr. How It's Done
Being a gay black Quaker in 1950s America is kind of like rolling a natural 1 through every step of your character creation process. Pretty much every interaction you have with mainstream culture is going to involve people passive-aggressively trying to murder you, as well as just straight-up aggressively trying to murder you.
"I also don't mind pressing '1' for English."
Rustin became a prominent member of the American civil rights movement. His most far-reaching impact was probably that time he convinced Martin Luther King Jr. (who at that point was using guns to defend his home and family) to try out this whole "nonviolence" thing, which you may remember as the defining attribute of King's movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the 1963 march on Washington (the huge attendance of which is credited to Rustin's organization), nonviolence was arguably the key to the movement's eventual success.
But this article isn't about ideological influence, it's about badassness, and Rustin's most incredible moment was a lot more personal. During a Korean War protest, Rustin found himself being savagely beaten by a stranger with a stick. Rustin's response was to grab another stick and offer it to his attacker, asking him if he wanted to beat him with that one, too.
"Some people turn the other other cheek. I slap it."
Although this is oddly similar to the end of Casino Royale, when Bond mocks Le Chiffre by telling him that he's about to "die scratching my balls," Rustin's version is objectively more badass just because it freaking worked: Right after this, his attacker threw both sticks down and walked away.
If you're wondering why you've never heard of this guy ... well, frankly, so were we, although some people suggested that it's because he was openly gay, being described as having "never heard there was a closet." In 1963.
When you kick this much ass, you don't need to hear anything.
Aki Ra Saves Countless Lives the Hard Way
Aki Ra was kidnapped from his family at the age of 5 (roughly -- Ra is unsure of his precise age) by the Khmer Rouge, a genocidal paramilitary group in Cambodia. He was given mine-planting duty, because a child's small hands are more suited to the delicate work of planting murder-bombs, and we really hope that's the most depressing sentence we have to write this week. What sounds like objectively the worst childhood in history continued until 1983, when Ra was captured by the Vietnamese Army, who quickly ... made him do exactly the same thing, but for them. Just file that away in your head to be remembered the next time you feel disappointed by literally anything.
It wasn't until 1992, when the U.N. came to Cambodia, that Ra saw a chance to undo the damage he'd been forced to do as a kid. Working with the U.N. bomb defusers, Ra began digging up the old mines that he had planted -- and continued doing so after the U.N. left two years later, declaring a job well done. This will become hilarious in a second.
The places you can find these mines include villages and farmland that the owners are eager to reclaim and start growing food on but can't because mines play hell on the soil aeration and also blow you the fuck up. Deminers like Aki Ra play an important role because they make land habitable again, but it's tough work: There's an estimated 4 to 6 million unexploded mines in Cambodia. And "shifting" mines is a tough, multi-person job: The most successful deminers employ 1,000 people and can still only remove about 3,000 landmines per month.
Unless, of course, you know them intimately, like Aki Ra, who has removed over 50,000 mines all by himself and without the approved U.N. equipment. He was digging up mines with a knife and his bare hands, and it wasn't until 2005 that Ra went to Britain to actually get trained to do the thing he'd been doing since he was a little kid. Basically, he got around to fulfilling safety regulations when there was a lull in his daily life-saving.
Between saving lives by being in constant mortal peril and the ensuing sexual exhaustion, who has the time?
Now, not only does he continue to clear mines as his full-time job, but he runs a museum that educates people about the still existing mines while housing homeless children, many of whom have been injured by the same mines that Ra is working every day to remove. So, yeah, thanks for making us feel shitty about our own accomplishments there, Ra.
"Sometimes I get nervous, but that is rare." -Actual quote
J.F. Sargent is a workshop moderator for Cracked. You can follow him on Twitter and read his Tumblr blog. Dustin Koski can be contacted at email@example.com. But be careful. He bites every fourth time he's contacted.
For more soldiers who need their own movies, check out 5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy and 5 Of the Most Badass Soldiers Ever (Happened to be Dogs).
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