Monday, September 09, 2013

Conflict in Conflict

Found this tag on an editorial cartoon the other day...

There's a nice man at the door wearing a Peace Prize selling war. (Link)
Over the past few weeks we’ve heard the sounds of missiles warming up and politicians beginning to argue in depth over the right or wrong of attacking Syria. The now familiar strain of debate over war has returned to the streets. Protests and all kinds of Facebook postings bring back memories of previous times.

Vietnam. Kuwait. Somalia. Iraq. Afghanistan.

The debate returns. As it must.

The conflict over conflict is one that we should not shut down or minimize. It is always an important question whether we are putting boots on the ground or not.

This particular conflict is interesting, however. In ways not seen since Vietnam bitter political opponents from different sides start to line up one way or the other. For at least an initial response last week two Minnesota congressional representatives found themselves on the same side- Michele Bachman and Tim Walz were both opposing the action. That is, I believe a good thing. On Facebook I have seen anti-involvement posts from people who are as conservative as they come.

The reality of military action is sobering. We must always be careful about the use of such actions. They do not do us well in the short or long term.

But they always raise question that cannot be easily answered. For example, the Syrian regime has killed thousands upon thousands of his country’s men, women and children with bullets, but that isn’t deemed as beyond the normal winds of war. Use a “weapon of mass destruction” to kill them and suddenly it is no longer the way to do it.

What about the simple fact that the only nation to have ever used THE weapon of mass destruction of the 20th Century is leading the call. But then I think that if we hadn’t dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, my dad would have been in the invasion force and I may have never been born.

I am a peacenik. I am a pacifist. I have a strong spiritual, religious and humanitarian foundation for my views. Nothing has changed them. But neither am I foolish and naïve to believe that such a position can become total reality in this world. I know that human nature will lead to conflict after conflict after conflict. I know that nations will rise up against nations and that countless (!) innocent people will die or suffer horribly. War happens.

But I for one have to say I want us to think VERY seriously about it. I for one want to be there calling myself and all that will listen to take this to heart and know the awful consequences of what we are doing even if that is a way to decrease the consequences of no action.

A theology, philosophy or lifestyle of peace is a witness that this is not he best way to live. A stand for peace is not anti-American or anti-whatever nation; it is a stand for humanity. We must always challenge our government, leaders of all sides, and ourselves to find ways to work more fully and intentionally and intensely for peace.

It is not an option.

I understand the politics. I understand the differing points of view. I know that some oppose the move because of it being the Obama administration planning it. Some others are all for isolation and staying out of the business of others. Let them all kill themselves. Who appointed us the world’s police?

In his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature Stephen Pinker argues that the world is a less violent place than it has ever been in history. Wikipedia explains:
The phrase "the better angels of our nature" stems from the last words of Lincoln's first inaugural address. Pinker uses the phrase as a metaphor for four human motivations that, he writes, can "orient us way from violence and towards cooperation and altruism," namely: empathy, self-control, the "moral sense," and reason.
His is a compelling argument that I think does make sense. One of the reasons is that over the last century we have seen awful examples of the spoils of war. We have watched so much of it on the screens in our living rooms over dinner. The reality of war has become real. The witness of people of peace can continue that movement toward a safer and less violent world.

Yes, there are lots of other factors involved. That’s why good HONEST discussion is valuable. Let’s not be afraid of those discussions.

Fifty years ago President John Kennedy in a commencement address at American University had this to say:
I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men ... world peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor—it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance ... our problems are man-made—therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.
Nothing has changed. May it be our work today.

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