As I was reading the new autobiography of Kofi Annan – “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace” last night wherein he describes the unraveling of Somalia in the early 1990s, I was struck that the same forces that allowed that kind of massacre to take place were at work in Newtown last week. I believe that second amendment absolutists are partially right, that guns are only part of the problem. The more fundamental problem is one we’re more afraid to address than gun control.
It is this notion of revenge or vengeance that plagues us. And on a more crowded planet with finite resources we might expect those tussles could become more frequent. But we have been shown that there is another way to live – Jesus, Gandhi, King, and Rachel Corrie demonstrated the way to peace. But thus far we have rarely been brave enough to travel that path.
Meanwhile our culture celebrates vengeance. Click on TNT or a multitude of television network programming and we become mesmerized and numbed by the violence often shrouded in some vindicatory guise. How many of the blockbuster films are built on this theme featuring the caricatures of James Bond or Jason Bourne or a myriad other macho guys destroying the enemy? Even President Obama seemed to take pleasure in the gunning down of Osama Bin Laden and the use of unmanned drones to obliterate others, regardless of innocents who may be ‘unfortunately’ nearby.
NFL highlights celebrate the crushing blows on opponents, while hockey fans relish a check that sends the opponent to the ice. Our modern day gladiators help foster the honoring of vengeance and retribution. Even our economic system celebrates running the competition out of business so that they can grab more of the market. The political system more and more seems to be us vs. them. Do we really believe for even a minute, that spiraling gun deployment, especially with semi-automatic weapons (are not these weapons of mass destruction – and thereby illegal under international law?), or of stationing more armed guards in every public place will protect us from the epidemic of violence that is so glorified in our economic, political, and cultural systems? I think not.
I believe we need to first recognize the ways that violence and vengeance are endemic to our current culture. Then we need to name them and turn away from them - individually, in families, churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues, in communities, states, nations and as a human family. We need to take the profit out of those activities and the makers of them.
There are many among us who have done this and have been showing us the way. They are the peacemakers. Support them, join them – with time, money, talent, whatever you can give. Locally that includes the Peace Education Center, Michigan Peace Team, Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice, Amnesty International, and Pax Christi to name a few. Peacemaking takes courage, more courage than taking a gun and aiming it at an enemy. Find your courage and join with the other peacemakers nearby. Our children and grandchildren need you be brave.
A.J. Muste, Fellowship of Reconciliation leader and active for many years in the War Resisters’ League perhaps said it best, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” Let’s take the first step today.We needa revolution of the heart.