War and peace, 2009

During the night I read and thought about President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Oslo. Rarely has a Nobel Peace Prize recipient spoken so much and so candidly about war.

I know a lot is lost in just reading a transcript. On the other hand, it gives the opportunity to pause and to reread and ponder what is being said.

On DemWit and in comments on others’ blogs, I have identified myself as a “realist” rather than an “idealist,” and I was intrigued that Obama brought up this distinction.

In fact, in my own insignicant way, I’ve argued some of the same points the president made throughout his speech. He, of course, did so more eloquently and convincingly.

Here are two quotes which struck me as most powerful in conveying his message:

“To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”


“But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But, I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice.”

Only the insane want war. Only the quixotic soul believes we can wipe it from the Earth.

As Obama turned his thoughts toward John F. Kennedy’s “gradual evolution” toward peace, he focused on nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, and economic security and opportunity.

How brave it was of Obama to end his speech with "love," for it is the most powerful weapon against war we human beings have.

Few of us do not remember learning the Golden Rule as children: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I pictured Obama as a father, using these words in addressing his audience in the same spirit as he has used them with his two little girls.

If every human being adhered to this simple rule, the world, if not a perfect place, would be a better place.

There is another word, as close to our hearts as “love,” which, in my opinion, shares its importance in working toward peace.

Let me share something from a book I read recently, “Too Far from Home” by Chris Jones.

When the space shuttle Columbia disintergrated in 2003, few of us realized three men – two Americans and a Russian - aboard the space station lost their ride home. With questions about when the shuttle would fly again, these men might have been confined in station beyond their human capacities.

As the trio’s time on the space station drew to a close, it was decided their only means of getting home was the untested Russian Soyuz spacecraft permanently docked there.

Their flight home was as perilous and their safe return as unsure as that of Apollo 13, yet the media – and the world – paid little attention to their plight, because the U.S. would within a month invade Iraq.

The spacecraft crash landed on its side on a Russian steppe 600 miles from its landing target with its positioning equipment damaged.

None of the three had really wanted to leave the peaceful, unharried atmosphere of “Station.”

As the Soyuz lay on its side, the American on the bottom looked out a tiny window and saw a single blade of green grass against the brown earth. “It’s beautiful, It’s beautiful.” he kept repeating.

In that single blade of grass he saw “home,” and home was not that Russian steppe; home was not America; home was Earth.

If only all nations could find unity in diversity and all peoples collectively feel the sense of home experienced by that American astronaut, peaceful solutions would abound.

If only …


Debra said...

Eloquently Spoken B.J.
Right up there with our President.
Love, Deb

Tiny said...

Beautiful, BJ, just beautiful. Your thoughts are the same as mine. Live in peace and harmony with our fellow human beings. Each of us has that spark of divine, creation, life force or whatever anyone wants to call it and our inner being yearns for that love, peace and harmony.

I think Pres. Obama delivered an excellent messsage to the world and with great humility. He took no credit for having done anything to deserve it, but that it was basically a clarion call for all of human kind to live by the Golden Rule, which is prevalent in every culture.

Hope is still alive and we have a great opportunity to change the destiny of our earth home.

Thank you for another great post.

Infidel753 said...

It has been said that there's nobody more peaceful than a dead troublemaker.

Unfortunately malevolent people do exist, and sometimes the only way to achieve peace for any length of time is to get rid of them. Waging war to get rid of Hitler does not make you the same as Hitler. There would never have been even as much peace as the Cold "War" brought if we had not gotten rid of Hitler.

Most humans don't want war. Unfortunately it only takes a small number who do, or who are willing to resort to it to get their way, to start a war. And then the rest have to decide what to do about that.

Obama gets this. Most people get it. If there were ever large numbers of people who didn't get it, they probably didn't last long enough to be our ancestors.

We are slowly moving toward the ideal of peace; the world has been growing less violent for centuries, measured by the per-capita death rate from inter-group violence. That rate is many times higher for hunter-gatherer societies than for modern societies, even when phenomena such as World War II are taken into account.

Most of us want a completely peaceful world. Take comfort in the fact that compared to where we started, we're already 90% of the way there.

Leslie Parsley said...

Excellent. Like most reasonably sane people I detest war. I actively protested the Vietnam War and am at heart an unrealistic pacifist. And I agree with Smedley Butler's anti-interventionism.

War isn't like it was in Butler's day or during Vietnam. It gets worse and worse, and even when there's not a formally declared war, the methods and weapons get worse and worse. All through history, in fact, wars have grown worse and worse.

I'm really wrestling with Obama's decision. Is this going to finally be the war that ends all wars, or will it escalate into something even more horrific?

I've heard so many "I-love-my- president,-buts" I could throw up.
I'm supporting his decision in a decidedly luke-warm fashion because of what I said above. I'm disturbed that Gates is already saying we might not be out by 2011.
If we're not, I'm going to be the first one out on the streets carrying a big protest sign. Let's just hope it won't be necessary.

Jerry Critter said...

In that single blade of grass he saw “home,” and home was not that Russian steppe; home was not America; home was Earth.

Oh what a great place this would be if everybody thought that way.

Sue said...

your writing is so beautiful BJ, I so enjoy your blog!

I do understand what President Obama is doing and I just pray it works and our troops come home safely. Thats all we can hope for. Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Man...

Frodo, soldier (again), said...

Frodo writes from the depths of Mordor, where he and Sam finish their internecine struggle against Sulaiman (with special gratitude to Hampton Inn for internet access). How appropriate is the Hobbit reaction to the fact that peace, like every other state of being, is merely relative. Gandhi, the most complex of men, would have addressed the young President with disdain, and who among us is to say that Gandhi could be wrong? Would Gandhi have turned the other cheek if confronted by the horror of Dachau? So aren't we all, of one and at the same, still debating these distinctions in our own minds? Point well-taken dear Merry, peace, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

bbj said...

BJ, this is a keeper. I'd hoped President Obama would withdraw every single American from the Middle East, but I'm convinced he would if he felt he could.

Beautifully written essay!

Leslie Parsley said...

This is Lieberman's email address.


Tell him what you think. Post on your blog and in comments on other blogs. Ask others to do likewise. We may not have money but we can get numbers.