They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation and they will no longer study warfare.
An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive, abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others."
― Bryan Stevenson, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption"
A child of war, I had never experienced an act of war until 9/11. I did not lose anyone close to me that day, but have friends, students and colleagues who barely survived. I know one or two people who signed up to become soldiers, to fight "for our country." Swords into ploughshares: one soldier eventually became a relief worker in Afghanistan during America's 20-year occupation, another disappeared into refugee camp in Chad as a medic and surfaced in Tunisia ten years later. I have Israeli cousins who refused to fight Palestinians and ended up in jail as conscientious objectors, others who are proud IDF warriors. I have Palestinian friends whose families were deracinated during the Nakba and are so bitter and distraught right now they have asked me to remove them from my blog blasts. "I cannot read what you write," one said, which is more a lament than a reason.
We are all afflicted and conflicted, we are all in pain.
I have been collecting quotes about war, peace, reconciliation justice and disarmament for a very long time. I pulled up a couple of them for this post in an effort to focus my thoughts this week which seem to be running with the wind and the falling leaves, a wild language only a Lenape can track and decipher, but they too are displaced. Because of all the rain this summer, it's not a brilliant autumn here; there are very few oranges and reds. The leaves turn yellow, then slightly orange, then brown, and fall. That seems the perfect metaphor for the war fever in the Middle East and the ongoing catastrophe in Ukraine with its ever increasing body count: what once was vivid and potent with life, has been destroyed by human stupidity and callous disregard, or been forced into violent self-defense and then offense, an unintended consequence of patriotism and nation building.
I am not sure if I am a Pacifist, with a capital P, or if I would take up arms against an oppressor, or if I would have the strength of a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King Jr. to lay my body down in the path of a tank. I don't think anyone can predict what they would do in a reign of terror. And I am sitting in a comfortable room in upstate New York where there are no bombs, no soldiers, no air raid sirens, and there is food in my refrigerator and water flowing out of the tap. So I can only offer my thoughts here today, and my feelings: I am utterly sickened by these wars. I am heartbroken.
Vengeance, whatever its justification or cause, is a wrecking ball. The soldiers go off to war wrapped in their flags. The arms dealers and manufacturers continue to amass their fortunes. Diplomats in heavily curtained rooms speak in tongues, seemingly impotent to stop the war fever.
"Rules of war?" That's an oxymoron. Why even pretend that there are rules of war? Or try to enforce them?
We are not dumb, we are not living in caves. We can see and hear and feel the government officials and diplomats who speak sense, and those who resort to platitudes and lies.
This post is dedicated to the innocent civilians in Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine. And to those who fight for peace, the only war worth fighting.