Friday, November 11, 2005

Armistice Day - War Is Over

St. Martin of Tours
Martin was a soldier. When met by a poor man seeking alms in the name of Christ, Martin took his sword, cut his own military cloak in half, and gave it to the man. As legend has it, the next night Jesus appeared to him in half a cloak and said, "Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with his garment." He was baptized and subsequently ordained priest and bishop. He is the patron saint of military chaplains, for in the midst of much strife and violence he sought to bring Christ to all, especially the poor and the oppressed.
Forward Day By Day, © 2004 Forward Movement
The armistice was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Those who signed the document, and those who had survived the conflict, sincerely believed they had fought "the war to end all wars." The mustard gas literally burned the flesh off the soldiers. Planes and bombs had been invented, and used, to a degree, by the last years of the war. The Great War even had its own precursor to the Holocaust, with the near extinction of the Armenians by the Turks.

Surely, after such death and destruction, no nation would be so foolhardy or bloodthirsty to risk another war!

Less than a generation later, Hitler proved them wrong.

Every generation since has had its war - Korea, VietNam, the Cold War, the two Gulf Wars.

If there is an argument against evolution, it must be war. For some reason, the human animal still has a drive to destroy perceived threats. The only way war has evolved is we have become more efficient, and have created means to kill others without having to face them. We can now fight war as if it were some impersonal video game.

What I mean to suggest is that if humanity were truly evolved, we would no longer resolve conflicts and differences by means of physical violence. Even the average bloodthirsty hawk will say that war is a "necessary evil."

In the early 70s, the poet Allen Ginsberg suggested that papers should publish the headline, "War Is Over," asserting that if a mass of people believed it, it would become a reality. John Lennon and Phil Ochs both wrote songs inspired by this idea.

I suggest a new slogan: "War Is Over, Beginning With Me." Strive for nonviolence in your personal life. Seek ways to resolve conflict, or to disagree, that include respecting the opinion of others. Seek ways that avoid name-calling, or pigeonholing. Maybe one day you can get cut off in traffic without flipping the bird or calling the other driver a jerk.

Write your representatives, encouraging them to support our troops at the same time we seek ways to withdraw from Iraq. Express your support for Peace Candidates, and a Department of Peace.

As the 60s song said, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

Is my suggestion as idealistic as Ginsberg's? Of course it is. But that is an essential quality of human evolution: we have the capacity to change, and to strive toward our ideals.

May it be so. May war be over, beginning with me.

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