I feel ready to read Obama's speech. I immerse, brought to its truth and honesty.
I am reading two books right now, Tolstoy's War and Peace and Peter Godwin's, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, a book that addresses the tragedy in Zimbabwe.
I think for many of us born and raised in America it is difficult for us to understand such brutality. Perhaps it is difficult for everyone.
What I do see though in this personal exploration I've taken to understand war and peace is that until I learn to control or at least understand my own temper and its ebb and flow, I cannot judge what happens on a larger scale.
Years ago I read two books that have stayed with me, Watership Down by Richard Adams and The War Diaries of Jean-Paul Sartre.
I think of them both when I think of what it might mean to have peace. We don't know what it is for each soldier in a war. We don't know their individual experience, the pride they may feel, the comradeship. We don't know what we ask of each of them. Each of them has an experience that is unique.
We do know of the tragedy and the suicides that are resulting from these wars of these last few years. I believe that we have a president with a conscience. I also believe until I find peace within myself, I cannot ask it of my nation or of this world.
I don't know what leads to the tragedy of war, but I have long thought we need ways to channel that energy, that desire to reach, bond, satisfy, and achieve. I think Obama is reaching toward world peace and I think he is uniting people with his words. If there is ever a time he needs our support, I believe it is now. These are not simplistic times. Most of us probably curse our computers periodically - too slow; lost the data; where is the connection; what's wrong now, and yet, look how we are connected because of them. I don't know how we pull out of war but I admire that Obama is asking us to look at war in a more whole and honest way.
Most of us have had times in our lives when we had to stand up and defend ourselves, when some energy poured through that may have surprised us with its laser capabilities and strength. I want peace. I want it in myself and in the world. I think sometimes not a moment goes by that it is not my mantra, and if I lose it, I try to return to it. Peace, and what does that mean. Mountains rise and fall. Tides go in and out. President Obama titled his speech, "A Just and Lasting Peace." Can anyone deny that our hearts cry for that, and yet, here we are.
I offer some excerpts from his speech that especially spoke to me. I might want to believe otherwise, but I also believe I need to honor what he says.
We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.
I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago - "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive - nothing naïve - in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.
But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.
So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths - that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human feelings. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. "Let us focus," he said, "on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions."
Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.
Let me also say this: the promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach - and condemnation without discussion - can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.
In light of the Cultural Revolution's horrors, Nixon's meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable - and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty, and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul's engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan's efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There is no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.
You have probably read his speech, and have your own response, but I sit with his words, "I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation." What a statement. Can we each meet the repressive regimes within ourselves, allow what sometimes lies there, admit any one of us has the ability to kill and now how do I live acknowledging those parts in myself and what do I mean when I say Peace. I am still in the exploration, but as I read Obama's words, I see him trounce Bush's actions kindly and honestly. What do we do now? Peace!
So, in trying to post this, my computer is in a stall. It is a good practice for me to see whether I can stay calm if my thoughts are lost or not. Peace! :)