Monday, May 09, 2005

What would a peaceful nation do?

A few years ago, to protest the launching of the U.S. war against Iraq, I went to peace rallies and marches carrying a sign that asked, "What would a peaceful nation do?" That question seemed to resonate with fellow activists and with some spectators as well, who nodded knowingly or gave the thumbs up.

For one thing, a peaceful nation wouldn't have cause to incarcerate so many of its own citizens - the highest rate in the developed world with by far the world's largest expenditure on prisons and prisoners - it's BIG business here.

Another thing: If we were a peaceful nation, we would not be so drawn to watching the sorts of brutal and crime-ridden entertainment that remain so popular (and of course - also Big Biz - we export our cinematic and tele-insidious mayhem to the rest of the world - certainly our most pervasive WMD). Tens of millions of Americans and now at least a billion or so around the world are steeped in violence as a way to solve problems or control others. And this is certainly part of what makes us SUCH a gun-toting, gun-proud, gun-happy nation.

Again, no other nation comes close to Americans' public glorification of guns and "the right to bear arms." In no other country are guns so "hi-viz." And Big Biz, too: who can touch our international arms sales in billions of dollars up front, much less the bounty of our backdoor deals? Trading weapons for all sorts of under the table sleaze - including ongoing regional wars - what a country.

Other cultures - even some we might consider "evil" - have the sense to publicly marginalize and disdain the violent elements of their culture. (Some of us are too afraid, and some of us, it seems, are not afraid enough - too ballsy and cocksure - "Bring 'em on!" they seem to say with that smarmy Bush brand of bravado. Clint's "good, bad and ugly" Dirty Harry and Ahhhhnold's mythical Terminator/now real-life "Governator" are modern American saints.

"Shane, come back! Come back, Shane!" And where's Matt Dillon when you need him?

If we were a peaceful nation, we would not only be proudly upholding the Geneva accords, without ongoing and systematic failures and coverups, we would be pressing other scurrilous nations to do the same AND to come up with new and improved protections for the rights and treatment of prisoners (supposedly innocent until proven guilty in a court of law).

For many of us, our fear is mixed with apathy, but for others of us, our "fear" for what this country is doing is mixed with anger. Some of us thought this was a better nation than it is - or has been for some time, if it ever was so great as we've been told, "beacon of hope, light of the world." We are demoralized to discover that it's never really been that great of a nation - not like we idealists hoped it would be - those of us who expected and demanded that our nation not make egregious errors such as at Abu Ghraib and Guanatamo Bay - and starting a "pre-emptive" war under false pretenses.

Shouldn't Lady Liberty's lamp shine on and against these horrors, not in any way for them? If we're the light of the world, why does our government seem to prefer such deep shadows? Did some of the more naive of us think these sorts of travesties were "behind us?"

These atrocities - in our name - deserve some serious reactions from Americans who care enough to want a better country. So we can't afford to fear as much as we do. We have got to be brave enough, now and then at least, to stand against the ills of our government, our culture, our co-workers, our acquaintances, our neighbors, perhaps even some of our wayward friends. The closer the enemy is, the more deft you must be, but do it, and make your lines and your principles clear, probably, to seem sensible and reasonably sensitive, somewhere in between the two extremes of ubiquitous conspiracy theory and sappy sentiment.

The fear is that we may lose control of what we thought we were in control of or at least clinging to - the good America. The sadness is that we may not have any but the most cursory (no, make that illusory) control now - the idealist's "power of the vote" and a "free speech" say in what is happening around us.

What is a priceless vote worth when you can buy a lobbyist? What is your free speech worth when the ears that need to hear of a wiser or more humane way are so rich, so connected, so audacious and/or so entrenched they're not only deaf to you but, however diplomatic in public, secretly disdainful, downright disdainful of your very existence?


At 5/10/2005 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, so nice and STILL writing about "The Web", I see!

Peace begins with the smallest common denominator. One small heart/mind desiring growth, learning how to be simultaneously rigorous and kind towards itself initally. Practicing unlimited friendliness and challenge towards ourselves so that we can begin to know how to genuinely offer that to to the person next to us, and the person next to them.

In the words of the Dalai Lama: 'Such compassion is not merely concerned with a few sentient beings such as friends and relatives, but extends up to the limits of the cosmos, in all directions and towards all beings throughout space'.

And, yes-- a balance between "the two extremes of ubiquitous conspiracy theory and sappy sentiment" is necessary. You think HHDL trusts the Chinese government? Dogged and deftly administered bravery AND tenderness at large and small levels all around. Woo-HOO! I can see a change a'comin'!!! Or is that simply too much coffee talking....?

We throw away so much of our personal power, because apathy and cynicism can be so enticing, so lulling, sooo attractive. The big problems seem so overwhelming that we conveniently forget to address the small ones. The personal is the political. Micro is the macro. The "Web"......

What would a Peaceful Person do? Hope and fight and cry and try and hope and quit and try again wherever they can. Isn't that our job? We can all start talking less about what we _can't_ do and start thinking more about what we can. With every breath try to fear Less and risk More.

But the Matt DIllon reference stumped me for a sec-- The Outsiders? Drugstore Cowboy? Flamingo Kid?? ;) :))


At 5/11/2005 9:22 AM, Blogger Rhesus Pieces said...

Don't confuse peaceful with free. Part of the cost of freedom is allowing people to do as they wish. Europe is not more free than the US. We can live within tigher confines but at a cost. Also don't confuse the government with corporate entities. Corporations are running things. They are the ones with resources to buy those priceless votes and they have. The US will only be knocked down when these corporations have no need for it.

What would a peaceful person do? Follow the rest of the herd. Moo!


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