I have been reading a biography of Sitting Bull, the famous Lakota leader. Like most good books it is interfering with my official duties though only a few chapters in. It’s an enjoyable read, but one aspect is unsettling though not unexpected. The narrative is steeped in war, as was the Lakota culture of the time (and as much of my culture is still today). Truly, most human cultures are steeped in war.
Hence, war is very much on my mind today, and I haven’t even read the most recent headlines concerning the Levant. This is a strange wheel we ride. War brings death and pain and suffering. It rends hearts and bodies. We honor those who sacrifice themselves in its fire and foster aid societies for their relief. We speak of the awfulness of it and how it is to be avoided if at all possible. We even give lip service to the idea of avoiding “unnecessary casualties”.
Still, we don’t get off the wheel. We never fight the war to end all wars. Seemingly, that war can’t be fought with any weapon we can fashion outside of the human heart, and perhaps it is just too painful for most of us to fashion the weapons that could fight that war. So we have the paradox of accepting the horror of war as being less horrible than the hard work and sacrifice that would be required to end it.
Instead, we feed the fire. We rationalize that “Such is the way of the world” without due acknowledgement that this is only so because humans choose it to be so. We argue of who started what when that is really no longer even relevant. Offense has piled upon offense, vengeance upon vengeance, to the point there is more responsibility and injury to go around. Like little children on the playground merry-go-round, we kick and kick to keep the wheel spinning to the point we are sick, but we keep kicking anyway.
Well I am sick of being sick. It is possible to turn the other cheek. It might get one punched yet again. It might get one killed. But the only way to stop the war wheel from turning is for enough individuals to decide to stop feeding it and just step off. Its energy comes from human beings so human beings can starve it of that energy.
I know what is coming. “That’s easy for you to say! You don’t live in a place of conflict. You haven’t lost friends and family to a hardened enemy.” Guilty as charged. So please know I’m not judging anyone who does live in such a situation. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do, only observe what the effect of justifying war and violence has been and suggest–as have much greater hearts and minds than my own–that there is another way. A way hard in its own right, to be sure. A road less-traveled. Still, a road none-the-less.
I will ask something of those participating in or fostering violence and war as a solution to our conflicts. Do you think this one is the one? Is this bomb or bullet or rocket or stone the one that will finally do it? That will turn the tide and bring about the actual end of violence and killing? Is it the one that will soothe the human heart of the pain and grief of losing lives and limbs and family in war? Will it actually right the wrongs? Will it bring back the dead? Because if it is not the one, then it is very likely just one more kick to keep the wheel of violence spinning on. It is very simple human mathematics. Death and destruction produce death and destruction. Vengeance produces vengeance. Like begets like. Killing enemies creates more enemies from the friends and family of the one who has been killed. Isn’t that why you justify killing? Why would the other side be any different?
It will never stop unless we stop it. So this is my declaration of peace.
This post is dedicated to those fighting in Palestine and Israel, not for Palestine and Israel, but for the shared human dignity of peace; and to those like them in places of conflict all around the world.