Since my birth in 1947, my country and the world has been in a constant state of war. For many years I thought that that was just the way it was. War was all about freedom and patriotism and honor. We have welcomed war as a solution to our problems only to find that war does not solve problems but only exacerbates them. Like many others, I have grown weary and hateful of war as the hands of the “doomsday clock” tick ever closer to ending the human race.
The “war to end all wars” fought in the early 1900’s, instead ushered in a century of war as had never ever been seen in the history of mankind. More humans died at the hands of war in the twentieth century than in all the previous wars.
When will this murderous trend stop?As a nation, we refuse to relinquish the idea that war brings peace although it has been disproven time and time again. We have spent unfathomable sums of money trying to prove that strength of armaments can bring us peace. It seems we are prepared to spend our last dollar on military force instead of feeding a starving child or to give a child a good start in life.We continue to build war memorials and to elevate warriors to mythical proportions.
When you go to our nation’s capital, you see statues all over the city commemorating warriors but you see very few of men and women who gave their lives to end wars. Our President, John F. Kennedy, said, “War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today”. He also said “I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war – – and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task”.
Is this task less urgent today? Will we pursue a policy of death and destruction until the last drop of blood has fallen to the earth? Luther King Jr. is another who warned that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”How then do we take that first step toward peace? Can we learn to stand up for our principles without resorting to violence to get our way?
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A person might die in the process of non-violent resistance as Martin Luther King Jr. did, but that would not be a dishonorable way to die. Such a death might save thousands of other lives or if you are a national leader, maybe millions. Our warriors have been taught that they are offering their lives for the many but the wars only serve to ratchet up and increase the violence which then becomes self-perpetuating.
Approximately 18 American military veterans now commit suicide each day and many more commit domestic homicides. We need a world where giving one’s life for peace would be self-perpetuating and a world that erects statues for those who work for peace.The idea of giving your life for peace may sound irrational because we have not been taught that way of living, even in our churches, synagogues, or mosques. We have been taught that peace only comes after a war and not before.
We need, however, to become like the great chief of the Nez Perz, Chief Joseph. When he surrendered to the U. S. Army in 1877 he said, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever”. He knew he could not win and he chose peace.Like Chief Joseph, we have reached the day when we can no longer fight. Humankind will not win if we continue to wage war. Our civilization will be destroyed or it will cease entirely. We all stand to fall victim to these terrible wars and institutionalized violence in one way or another if we do not learn to love each other as we love ourselves.
Bill has been a peace activist since Sept 2002, Member of Veterans for Peace, Chapter 115 and its executive director, and a retired veterinarian.
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