peace

Escape

The_Pentagon_January_2008

The Pentagon, 12 January 2008. (Credit: David B. Gleason)

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and now Donald Trump—all of whom grew up on Hollywood’s spectacle of America winning wars ad infinitum and none of whom fought in an actual war—“managed to remain quite deeply embedded in centuries of triumphalist frontier mythology.”

We’re still stuck in the fantasy of “an American world of forever war.”

Tom Engelhardt, “Rebecca Gordon, War Without End,” March 7, 2017

 

I was struck, while reading one of Peter Zhang’s exploratory essays and thinking about US war culture, by the metaphor of escape.[i] Escape is just one figure in Zhang’s extended comparison of Deleuze to Zen. The spirit of the essay’s multiple analogies is heuristic, especially for escaping debilitating conventions of political culture. (more…)

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Western Worldview: A Latent War Myth

francois_dubois_001

“St. Bartholomew Day’s Massacre,” oil on panel, by François Dubois, circa 1572-84. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I recently came across a striking depiction of the dominant Western worldview, which underlies our conventional way of thinking about violence, especially our assumption that war is natural and inevitable. It is our present-day mythos—our deeply embedded conception of humanity—rendered so starkly that it startles one momentarily into a state of recognition.

I found this remarkable depiction in a book about the history and vitality of peace movements, specifically a chapter on psychology and peace. The authors, Marc Pilisuk and Mitch Hall, observe that we live in a world we have created, both a physical world we have significantly changed and “a symbolic world of mental images that define what we assume to be true.” Our prevailing myths are our most comprehensive symbols for identifying our place and purpose in life. They constitute social and political entities, such as nation-states, that “exist only because we believe they are real,” that is, “because we invest them with sovereign powers and sacred attachments” and “willingly kill or die for them.”[i] (more…)

End of Empire

"Four Horsemen of Apocalypse," by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“Four Horsemen of Apocalypse,” by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Like Gabriel sounding the trumpet for the Final Judgment, or like an unwanted guest who names the rope in the hanged man’s house, Francis I stood before our Clown Congress and spoke the names of four American warrior saints. If our legislators would know them, or come to know more about them, they would realize that the Pope was urging upon us the consequences—in the course of time—of following the words of these Four Riders of the Apocalypse.   (more…)

Perish by the Sword

Sculpture of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, in the Abbey Saint-Pierre Brantôme, Brantôme (Dordogne, France). (Credit: Père Igor / Wikimedia Commons)

Sculpture of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, in the Abbey Saint-Pierre Brantôme, Brantôme (Dordogne, France). (Credit: Père Igor / Wikimedia Commons)

In the face of yet another massacre of young Americans, this time by a sick individual with guns in Oregon, some of our political leaders (Mencken’s Clown Dynasty) do not know what to do.

Others, like Pontius Pilate, are glad to wash their hands of the messy business. Jeb Bush summed up this attitude admirably the day after the shooting: “Stuff happens.”

If we are paralyzed into inactivity by the Second Amendment, by the NRA and its lobby, or by fellow Americans who worship guns and vote accordingly, perhaps we can find if not a new path, at least a new direction for a solution if we re-examine some of our premises about who we are, and remember what we claim to be.

First, President Obama presented the nation with this befuddlement in his address after the shooting: “We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.” The explanation for this puzzling conundrum is simple: despite our riches and our technical proficiency, we are NOT an “advanced country.” We are a nation of savages and barbarians who would rather see our children slaughtered than give up our guns. We believe in human sacrifice, and regularly offer up human victims to the natural law of the Second Amendment and to the bloody cult of the NRA. Any solution to the gun problem in this great country must begin with an acknowledgement of this sad fact. (more…)

Gunplay

Re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone, Arizona, January 2008. (Credit: James G. Howes / Wikimedia Commons)

Re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone, Arizona, January 2008. (Credit: James G. Howes / Wikimedia Commons)

Walt Longmire is Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming in Craig Johnson’s popular mystery series. His best friend, Henry Standing Bear—aka The Cheyenne Nation—owns the Red Pony bar at the intersection of town and reservation. The bar is empty, except for Henry and Walt, on a cold Thanksgiving night. Henry is cooking the holiday turkey and fixings out back while Walt sips a beer (or two) and watches a football game on TV between the Chiefs and the Broncos. The Chiefs are losing, again.

Thanksgiving is not The Cheyenne Nation’s favorite holiday. He calls it Thankstaking.

A stranger enters the bar and orders a beer. He’s a “bearded young man in stained, frayed Carhartt overalls.” After serving the stranger his beer, Henry goes outside to check on the turkey and to check out the stranger’s pickup truck. He sees a woman and small child asleep inside the parked truck.

Henry returns to the bar just as the young man pulls a gun on Walt, saying he needs money for gas and food. “I don’t normally do this kind of thing . . . I’ve got a wife and kid. I mean this is not who I am. I lost my job and I need to get back to Elko.”   (more…)

Iraq Veterans Against the War

The Lafayette hillside memorial in Lafayette, California. Photographed on January 3, 2007. (Credit:  Hno3 / Wikimedia Commons)

The Lafayette hillside memorial in Lafayette, California. Photographed on January 3, 2007. (Credit: Hno3 / Wikimedia Commons)

They were founded in July 2004 at a convention of Veterans for Peace to give voice to recent veterans and active duty servicemen and women “under various pressures to remain silent.” Their aim was to “educate the public about the realties of the Iraq war.” Nonviolence was their chosen means of antiwar advocacy.

This and more we can learn on the IVAW website about Iraq Veterans Against the War. What can we learn from their direct experience and alternative standpoint if we choose to listen? What can they tell us about the negative impact of war? (more…)

Say What?

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of the Australian Parliament in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra on November 17, 2011. (Credit:  Pete Souza / Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of the Australian Parliament in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra on November 17, 2011. (Credit: Pete Souza / Wikimedia Commons)

Speaking to the Australian Parliament on November 17, 2011, as his administration declared its intention to pivot to Asia, President Obama expressed his commitment to peace. We “partner to keep peace,” he said. We seek a world in which “disagreements are resolved peacefully,” he insisted. “As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.  We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace,” he concluded.

Say what?

What does the President mean by peace? Budgeting for war equals a commitment to peace?

In a word, yes. (more…)

Waging Peace

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 18 March 1966. (Credit: Yoichi Okamoto)

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 18 March 1966. (Credit: Yoichi Okamoto)

Inspector “Beauvoir knew that the root of all evil wasn’t money. No, what created and drove evil was fear. Fear of not having enough money, enough food, enough land, enough power, enough security, enough love. Fear of not getting what you want, or losing what you have.” Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery (New York: Minotaur Books, 2012), p. 159.

Fear of losing what we want or have is the root of evil that leads to murder, at least in Louise Penny’s novel. Likewise, we are driven to war, Paul Chappell believes, by our insecurities.

“War propaganda tells people they are fighting for a noble cause in defense of their family, country, or an ideal.” It plays on our insecurities. “The war system is a master of deception,” Chappell maintains, “and one of its biggest illusions is that war is needed to make us safe.” Far from making us safe, the war on terror has created more problems than it has solved. “Our greatest enemy is war itself” [The Art of Waging Peace (Westport, CT: Prospecta Press, 2013), pp. 170, 250, 113].

Waging peace makes more sense than waging war. It is a more effective way to combat terrorism and, unlike the hypocrisy of the war state, it does not violate the nation’s noble ideals of freedom, democracy, justice, and opportunity. (more…)

Soldiers of Peace

Gandhi walking under the rain after landing at Folkstone (UK), September 12, 1931. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Gandhi walking under the rain after landing at Folkstone (UK), September 12, 1931. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“I regard myself as a soldier, though a soldier of peace” (Mahatma Gandhi speaking in Geneva, Switzerland on December 10, 1931).

In a recent post, “The Myth of War’s Inevitability,” I recounted US Army Captain Paul Chappell’s rebuttal of the mythic premise that humans are naturally violent and warlike. He advances the alternative vision, grounded in Gandhi’s metaphor, of democratic citizens transcending war by regarding themselves as soldiers of peace [Will War Ever End? (Weston, CT: Ashoka Books, 2009)].

In a subsequent book, Peaceful Revolution (Westport, CT: Easton Studio Press, 2012), Chappell “outlines a path away from war” that channels the “warrior spirit toward peace” (pp. xiii, 41). The knowledge he gained at West Point about soldiering is repurposed to the pursuit of peace by nonviolent means. (more…)