"...as we all know, violence and a failure of the imagination are closely bound up."
No, not Aquinas; this is a different Tom. Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor Who, in an interview discussing one of the more controversial episodes of his tenure as The Doctor, in which he slugs it out in a fistfight with another Time Lord antagonist.
This pretty well sums up how I think about the issues of violence and pacifism. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to respond to a slap in the face with a punch of your own. As a child, I often resorted to petty violence against my constant antagonist (you know which sister you are!) simply because, and I remember this well, I couldn't think of anything else to do. So I hit her. It never worked out well. Pretty much, it turned everyone against me: my sister, predictably, and also the parents, who would punish me for being violent.
In recent discussions on other blogs on the topic of pacifism, it seems that the trump card of just war proponents is the question, "well, what's your big idea, what's your answer, you idiot coward pacifist? how are you going to stop Hitler/Saddam/the dude breaking into your house trying to rape your wife?" When the pacifist admits that there doesn't seem to be a ready solution to the problem of violence--whether in its political manifestation of war, or the more homey oft-trotted-out scenario of the robber--then the assumption is, obviously pacifism is dumb and ridiculous because it has no answer to the trump card question.
What gets ignored is that no one has the answer to the trump card question. Those in favor of the use of force (because those in favor of this don't use the word violence to describe what they do, only what they react against) to defend self or family or country ignore the observable truth that this doesn't end the problem of violence either. The problem is not that the pacifists have no answer. The problem is that no one does.
I get tired of the implicit double standard in these conversations.
Pacifism, for me, is a stance which resists yielding to the despair and lack of imagination inherent in the violent response. It is hopeful. It is eschatological. It is brave. It is unconcerned with looking foolish. It is, in short, faithful.
In the prayers of the people at Trinity Episcopal, there is a beautiful line, penned by one of the priests there:
"let us seek even that reconciliation which we, in our frailty, fail to imagine is possible."