Though I am an optimist, and think most things are possible, I think it is fundamentally impossible to prepare for peace and war at the same time.
Before you move on into the balance of these alphabets, take a little time and think about that. Think about what it takes to prepare for war. And though no people on earth have really attempted it, think about what it might take to prepare for peace.
The fundamental problem is not one of arms and strategic planning and bunkers.
The fundamental problem is one of the heart.
From time to time in human history has come that person who would point this out, and generally that person is killed. Those in power do not like it pointed out that the way of the world is not the way the world need be, nor is it best.
Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek, loving not only our neighbors but also our enemies, returning love for hate.
When the authorities came for him in the night and fiery Peter loped off the ear of the high priest’s servant, it was written that Jesus healed the ear and offered no resistance to his accusers.
Gandhi followed similar precepts in gaining rights for Indians living in South Africa and eventually lifting the yoke of British Imperial rule of India.
Both of these men changed the world they knew, and changed perhaps a little, the heart of man. Both were killed by those frightened and frustrated by their gentle power.
It is that fear that still rules the world.
We in America, the most powerful nation in the world today, have had in our hands the ability to mold the clay forming the heart of man. And in general, we have chosen to defer that opportunity, choosing instead the easy way, the way of the world as it is.
We don’t need to do that.
We could help the world institute rule of law rather than a rule of raw power. But we chose to have one set of rules for ourselves, another for those less powerful. We do in the world as we do to ourselves, as Congress sets the rules for those of us ruled, and another set of rules for themselves. As we endorse the rules of the Geneva Convention for the world, and in war, chose another set of rules for ourselves.
We chose for ourselves our own form of government, fighting for years to throw off British rule, establishing a democracy formed from the threads of the past woven by the Founding Fathers into the tapestry of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Yet we would impose that form of government on independent nations not yet given to those precepts.
Though we build advertising campaigns to convince us otherwise, we operate from a base of fear rather than one of love. That is evident on the international stage in the fearsome and frightening proliferation of nuclear weapons, and domestically in the arms we covet and bear as individuals.
It is not love of my neighbor that moves me to covet the newest pistol or assault rifle. It is fear of my neighbor.
Hence the heart issue.
Though leaders around the world give lip service to concepts espoused by Jesus and Gandhi, when push comes to shove, it is raw power to which they turn. Might makes right, and it is the winner in a conflict that rewrites the history to cleanse their intentions of anything but those pure and just.
When Gandhi was attempting to use non-violent means to loosen the grip of Great Britain on India his first and most difficult conflict was with the heart of Indians. Demonstrations turned violent, thousands were killed. It was during the protests against the British salt tax that the power of his idea came clear. Gandhi was jailed without trial, but “The poet Mrs. Sarojini Naidu took over and led the 2,500 marchers. As the group reached the 400 policemen and 6 British officers who were waiting for them, the marchers approached in a column of 25 at a time. The marchers were beaten with clubs, often being hit on their heads and shoulders. The international press watched as the marchers did not even raise their hands to defend themselves. After the first 25 marchers were beaten to the ground, another column of 25 would approach and be beaten, until all 2,500 had marched forward and been pummeled. The news of the brutal beating by the British of peaceful protesters shocked the world.” (from About.com 20th Century History)
It was one more step toward wresting freedom from what had been the most powerful country in the world.
Rule by raw power has been the way of the world.
We in America had the most stunning opportunity in thousands of years of human history to lead our world into a rule of law and justice. After 9/11, we chose war.
I do believe we could have united the world against those forces of evil intent on leading the world further into darkness and chaos. I am yet heartsick we chose war, and in choosing, have furthered those forces of darkness and chaos.
As an optimist, I still believe in the possibility for change.
But that change will come not from political parties, and will not come from nuclear arms or assault rifles. It will come from inside only the beating hearts of each of us.
From choosing to push aside the fear and embrace our neighbor.
It is that simple, and that hard.