A guest editorial addressed to his fellow U.S. citizens by Dennis Rivers
January 6, 2020
In the name of Jesus, who said “love your enemies,” and from the Inner Light of my own heart, I mourn the death of every person killed in war, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani of Iran included. May his children find consolation on the loss of their father.
To all those American politicians and commentators who have just said loudly, “No American will mourn the death of this man,” I ask this question: Is this the best that America can do? Is this all that America can do? How can we ask God to bless America if all America can do is kill people, assassinate leaders of other countries, and then threaten to kill even more people after that?
There MUST be a better way. We cannot possibly be so smart that we can put rovers on Mars, and then be so dumb that we can’t work out our disagreements with other countries. Even our high-tech military equipment silently accuses us: If we are smart enough to build fiendishly complex nuclear weapons, can we really be so stupid that we can’t talk to people in other countries? Something is deeply out of whack in our current psychology. (You can see my online library of conflict resolution resources at www.NewConversations.net )
Here are some more of my reflections on the current plague of violence and irrationality:
War is full of painful contradictions that burden and diminish all of us, participant and bystander alike: We Americans tend to celebrate our snipers, bomber pilots and stealthy special forces as noble and heroic warriors, while at the same time we denigrate as beastly assassins and terrorists the snipers, bombers and stealthy special forces of particular other countries.
To embrace such a double standard is to retreat into a form of socially approved irrationality edging on madness, a madness that can turn us into monsters, both on the stage of the world and in our everyday lives. We have seen this split-mindedness before in recent history, and it is at work today in ethnic cleansing campaigns around the world. How would people in the United States feel if some natural disaster caused U.S. citizens to flee to Mexico, and the Mexican government responded by separating children and babies from parents and put the children and babies in cages?
Jesus counsels us to treat others as we would like to be treated. The sounds of endless military marching bands can never bang loud enough to drown out this quiet teaching. Somewhere in our hearts we know that it is true.
Violence is often excused with the idea the “I had no other choice.” This is often put forth to blame external circumstances for our violent actions. But the question remains, in the ten years before the moment of violence, how much effort did we put into finding and practicing alternatives. In the short run, a person may be overwhelmed by circumstances. But in the long run, I believe that we will get what we put a lot of energy into preparing for. (Our trillions of dollars invested over decades in creating machines of death shows every other country what we have come to believe in.) What seeds are we sowing? What are we preparing to reap?
Right now it seems like there is no way out of the growing spiral of violence. But I am convinced this is exactly the moment when we most need to keep looking for a better way, to keep believing in a better way, to say, in loving defiance, they may blow me up, but I will never accept that this was the best that we could do.
Forgiveness and the Sorrow of War
(my personal name for a sculpture by Josefina de
Vasconcellos at Coventry Cathedral)