Good post. I appreciate your honesty and insight. My experiences and comments parallel yours very much.
The struggle to reconcile learning fighting skills with peacefulness is a debate that I stay out of, for the most part. I tend to think that a fair amount of aikido "peacefulness" rhetoric is a shuck and jive, repeated as platitudes without a true sense of personal relevance -- but I recognize also that that's a judgmental attitude, so I try to keep a lid on it (not always with success). I do feel that some (many?) aikidoka fool themselves about their ability to use their techniques in a way that won't result in harm to their attacker.
I would agree. Macroscopically I offer the same critique. However, I try too not to be judgemental and realize that there are different people in the world that come into this for many different reasons and endstates.
I think our responsibility and focus in the spirit of the art is to be honest and true with ourselves. If we do that then all this other stuff tends to take care of itself.
As Ghandi said, "be the change you want to see in the world". I think this is about the best we can do as human beings.