copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Again, I stood alone on the corner, as I had for months. My intent was as it has been for years; I seek to achieve world peace. However, after a short while I realized, today was like no other. I received the usual smiles and signals of serenity; nonetheless, the number of shuns, shrieks, and screams were as they had never been before. I held the same sign that I embrace each Saturday. The words "Love Not War!" are displayed for all to see.
My attire advances my message. Each afternoon, as I plead for harmony, I am dressed in white. My arm is out-stretched. My forefinger and middle finger are extended above my head as I offer a recognizable gesture. I only ask we give peace a chance.
Initially, as people passed me on this busy street, life was good. It has been for as long as I can recall. An automobile would pass. The occupants would toot their car horn. Numerous individuals would exchange nods or note that they too yearn for global tranquility. I would express my pleasure aloud. Repeatedly, as I encounter my fellow citizens I exclaim, "Thank you." My salutations of joy for our like desire fill the air. It is a pleasure to experience so many individuals in a shared quest for world harmony.
Then, suddenly, a car came very close. A United Sates flag was flying high above the chassis of this vehicle. An elderly man slowly rolled down the window and leaned toward me. Good naturedly he inquired, "Where is my love?" I grinned and said, "It is all around us." I continued, "We get what we give," or so I have long believed. However, as the afternoon wore on, I wondered was that so.
On this day, I was bombarded with flailing fingers, thumbs down, waves that connote wrongdoing, and of course, the third digit on either hand crossed my path. While these expressions were less than warm, they did not concern me. Individuals may have a difference of opinion. I accept and appreciate that. Each of those that offered a characteristic contrary conviction politely stated their case.
My reason for concern came from the few that expressed their disdain with fury. One man came very close to the corner, rowed down the window, and shouted, "Your actions support the terrorist." He asserted, "You are a traitor." I listened and said nothing. I contemplated the concept.
I thought of how I love this country. I never had a notion to leave the shores of America. I long to ensure that the United States of America will be exemplary. Others will look to us and trust mankind can "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Indeed, my hope is that by our actions we will illustrate that "all men are created equal." Admittedly, my hope is that if we are all truly good to our fellow man, here and abroad, there will be no reason for resistance. As this chap shrieked, I offered no reply, not verbally, or otherwise. The young man sped off.
I contemplated terrorism. I wondered. Who is a greater threat, those that kill in the name of freedom and justice while dressed in American uniforms, or those murder the persons that they deem "the enemy." Reveries of scholar, Sam Keen filled my head. I recall the text, "Faces of the Enemy," and the message. The tome . . .
Examines the techniques of propaganda used to teach us "to hate all the people our relatives hate.” Some 400 posters and cartoons show how enemies are dehumanized by portraying them as enemies of god, barbarians, terrorists, sadists and aggressors so that we will be able to kill without remorse or pity.I think of this frequently. When I hear Osama Bin Laden or George W. Bush speak, I trust that the "overeducated at Harvard and Princeton," former Professor of Philosophy and Religion, and contributing editor of Psychology Today, Sam Keen is, for me, correct. Speeches made by Bin Laden, or Bush, are at times, interchangeable. Each tells us to hate an enemy.
You have . . . defiled our honour, violated our dignity, shed our blood, . . . and tampered with our security. We will treat you in the same way.I trust to my core, I sponsor no violence or campaigns that promote intimidation. Bombs and brutality are not a means to the end I endorse. As I stand solid and resolute, I hum the tune, "give peace a chance."
Moments passed; perhaps it was many minutes later. I was so lost in thoughts I do not recall now. The lovely city bus driver entered the intersection. From half a block away, I saw her smile, her kind face, and as I do every Saturday, I experienced her delight at the sight of me. She beamed. I could see, even from a distance her fingers were positioned as mine were. We each granted the other our traditional gesture. Together we promote peace.
I have long stated, when we connect with another human in a loving manner we can, and will, receive what we bestow. I believe Newton's Third Law of Motion governs the universe. Yet, sadly, some have yet to realize that a reactive stance will elicit the same in kind.
I recall a discussion in cyberspace just over ten months ago. The question was posed.
If you had to make a conscious, affirmative choice, would you rather win? Or would you rather be right?
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes [Prominent Writer, Physician]
The discussion that ensued astounded me. In truth, the query itself puzzled me. I do not believe in the concept of victory. For me, if one triumphs, they too are defeated. I believe the only absolute "right" is love, which translates to peace.
Many muse, "Love is an action." Indeed, I believe it is. Conversely, I postulate, "Fear is a reaction." As I stand before those that support a conflict that kills young, old, innocent, and innocence I realize many feel a need to defend their claim. "We must win the war before we leave Iraq." These were the words yelled to me from another open car window.
Again, I perpend. "Win" and "war" are constructs that I think untenable. Nevertheless, we as a nation are obsessed with each. Americans, and perhaps citizens worldwide, are quick on the trigger, swift when we wish to snipe, careless when critical. We welcome a Department of Defense. Many believe weapons of mass destruction, be they chemical, biological, nuclear, or words, serve society well.
People do not accede a need to pursue peace profoundly. The populace professes to believe, we must "fight" for freedom. I inquire, can we not all be free to feel as we do and still be civil, calm, and considerate of our fellow man. Some state, humans living in harmony is but a dream. I think the dream is possible.
I sigh as I consider this series of confrontational events, all in a single day bring no serenity. I weigh what is occurring. The sun was bright, the humidity high. I could feel the heat of the summer day scorch my skin. Hurricane strength winds were off in the distance. Might the moon influence the attitudes of people as they pass by? Perhaps the temperature, the hour, or the culture of combat that is pervasive in this country created what came next.
As I stood at my usual post on the northwest corner, I faced the traffic traveling away from the beach. Red, yellow and green lights directed the wave of cars. Ever and anon, drivers see me as they sit stopped, before they are given the right of way. Many beep prior to reaching the intersection. Others wait until they are closer. On occasion, an individual will decide to respond after they are farther down the road. Some want to read my sign, reflect, and than throw caution to the wind. Whatever people chose to do is fine with me, or so I thought. I had not contemplated an extreme confrontation.
It was close to one post-meridian time. The red light that held westward bound cars at bay changed to green. A very large, shiny, and new truck, cut across two lanes of traffic. The driver quickly raced towards me. This vehicle had been in the farthest left lane, nowhere near the curb on which I stood. The lorry careened. Its occupants clearly wished to be close to me. I saw the swift motion and feared the automobile would jump the sidewalk.
As the rig approached, I saw the side window was open. An extremely rotund man sat in passenger seat. He and the stout fellow steering the motor vehicle, each leaned towards me. Their skin was tanned, faces flush, veins were bulging, and their voices very loud. They deliberately declared, "You f***ing loser! You f***ing c***! You f***ing bit**!" I stood still. I said nothing. Words escaped me. I only knew my thought. I wish you peace and love. I hope you will find these. My desire is that we all will.
However, once more I am haunted by the vastness of defensiveness. For me, the claim that self-defense is justifiable encourages destructive engagement and advances assaults. Yet, that is the battle cry. President George W. Bush proclaims . . .
I want to thank my fellow Americans for caring about the subject of peace, and that's what I'm here to discuss.Never does the Commander-In-Chief mention the horror he released on civilians. Nor does he consider the reality that violence begets greater violence. Brutality increases exponentially when we engage in battle. Yet, this is what people often do. They bump and bruise their fellow global citizens all in the name of achieving tranquility.
We meet at a time of great consequence for the security of our nation, a time when the defense of freedom requires the advance of freedom, a time with echoes in our history . . .
Like an earlier generation, America is answering new dangers with firm resolve. No matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult the task, we will fight the enemy, and lift the shadow of fear, and lead free nations to victory. (Applause.)
Like an earlier generation, America is pursuing a clear strategy with our allies to achieve victory. Our immediate strategy is to eliminate terrorist threats abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home. The theory here is straightforward: terrorists are less likely to endanger our security if they are worried about their own security. When terrorists spend their days struggling to avoid death or capture, they are less capable of arming and training to commit new attacks. We will keep the terrorists on the run, until they have nowhere left to hide.
At times, the downtrodden in exasperation do as the self-proclaimed "masters" of the universe do. They wage war for what they think right. The poor and mistreated fight in defense of freedom, as might we all. Perchance, those defined as "plebeians" determine they must defend themselves for those in power so eagerly attack. Parents may be the authority figure doing as was done to them. Peers may also adopt a repressive role. Interestingly, often, the "prominent" population is numerically less large.
We might consider the circumstances of well-known Civil Rights Leader, Malcolm X. In his endeavor to seek liberty and justice for all, he experienced as many Americans do, infinite inequity. In frustration, Malcolm expressed his fury. He spoke of the need to defend self, just as the President does.
"It doesn't mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don't call it violence when it's self-defense; I call it intelligence."Few recall that late in his life, Malcolm X made a pilgrimage that seem to prompt a change from within. While the revered revolutionary had little time left on Earth after his holy journey, there was reason to believe that ultimately Malcolm X would have embraced non-violence. Still, in this climate of conflict most prefer to recall the man that stood strong in the face of danger, as he declared . . .
"The price of freedom is death."The slain leader did not live to see peace; nor have we reached that preferred pinnacle. We can only hope that Malcolm rests in peace. In his name, we may wish to pursue the prospect, however, belatedly.
My day on the corner gives me little reason for hope. While the vast majority joined me in peaceful expressions, the experience reminded me of what I fear is too often true. George W. Bush may have said this best.
America's military is fighting in many theaters, yet always for the same cause. We seek to preserve freedom and peace for ourselves and for our friends.I observe that often, American's, our followers, and those they label foe only wish to establish peace for their pals. A person, or a nation, given any unforeseen circumstances can easily be considered an adversary. A slip, a slight, a misstep in the mind of this superpower or that supposed subversive can alienate an ally. One never knows what can trigger an attack.
In cyberspace, the same dynamic is evident. People posit an opinion, and those that disagree lash out in defense of their stance. An offensive retort is often delivered as a bullet might be. Words when used as weapons can pierce a heart and soul. Indeed, frequently, that seems to be the intent.
I return to the inquiry posited in a local Internet neighborhood; would we rather be right or win. Might we consider if any of us think ourselves righteous in comparison to another then we lose the empathy essential for peace. We cannot win a battle and lose a war. Any confrontation weakens us all.
whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
~ Mahatma Gandhi, "Non-Violence in Peace and War"
Almost a century ago, we fought the War to end all Wars.
The number of men mobilised by both sides: the central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey), and the allied powers (Britain and Empire, France, Belgium, Russia, Italy, USA), totalled over 65 million.We declared that destruction, The Great War. Decades later the globe was again on fire. Certainly, this more recent conflict would bring world peace. Countless skirmishes occurred before and after each of these battles. The cycle never seems to end. Fighting is accepted as a fact of life.
When the fighting was finally over, no-one could tell exactly how many had been killed but historians estimate that up to 10 million men lost their lives on the battlefield - and another 20 million were wounded.
There are hostilities in our homes, fractures in our factories. Campaigns of cruelty in cyberspace are common. Offices are not exempt; offensive rhetoric lives large in every cubbyhole. On the streets, the battle continues. Gangs come to blows, and a little girl, all of five feet tall, is attacked for holding high a banner that pleads for peace.
Defend the Right to Love . . .