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Ending Endless Wars

    Why are we willing to live in a world of endless war? Why do we allow our government to support the massacre of unarmed civilians and the wholesale destruction of homes, schools, and even hospitals in Gaza at this very moment? Why is it funding and supplying weapons to Ukraine, in order to indirectly attack Russia? Why is it spending over half of its income – over $100 million dollars an hour- on war and death, instead of fighting hunger, poverty, and homelessness here at home? Most important of all, what can we really do to stop this madness, and bring peace to the world?

    It may seem impossible, but it’s not. We all complain about our government, and are constantly begging it to change its evil way. But we haven’t learned to use the political power that we actually have, through our votes, to control it! Why not? We’ve been taught since childhood that we’re powerless.

    As children, we actually were powerless. Our lives were in the hands of our parents, “the adults in the room.” As we grew up, we were always in the control of some other authority, whether in church or school. We learned to sit quietly in our assigned places, and be taught what to learn, think, and believe. When we graduated from school or colleges, we entered a world that was controlled by multiple authorities, with the rules for our behavior set in advance. We accepted it all, and did our best to fit in. We had been taught, as in the notorious Milgram experiment, obedience to authority, even at the cost of the suffering of others. So when the government tells us we need to go to war, we readily sacrifice ourselves, our children, and the lives of unknown others, on the altar of governmental authority.

    But wait a minute! Where does the government get its authority? It gets it from us! As it says in our Declaration of Independence, governments “…derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That’s us, “the governed!” If it gets its power from us, that means that we, citizens that vote, actually have the power to control it. So why are we allowing it to control us?

    It’s time for us “ordinary people” to realize that we’ve grown up and are not longer children. We too are now “the adults in the room.” We need to awaken from that childhood state of powerlessness, and realize that the unspoken but ever-present lesson, that authority exists only outside of ourselves, was a lie.  We can no longer permit ourselves to be told to “sit quietly in your seat until called upon.” As adults, we can think, speak, and make decisions for ourselves. And if we really believe in this thing called “democracy,” we have the right – and the responsibility! – to question authority, its legitimacy, logic, and its values!

    Who decided that our society should consist of a handful of fabulously rich people, and millions of poor? That the law should protect and serve some, but punish and control others? That the work of women is less valuable than that of men? Or that threats, lies, and mass murder are justified – and even made “noble”- by a government’s declaration of war? As Staajabu, a profound local poet phrased it, “How did they get that over on us?”

    In the very beginning, it was probably through sheer violence. Later, ideas and beliefs, such as the “divine right” of kings, used religion to grace the brutality of power. It’s amazing to think that someone would give up their life, or take the life of another, for an idea. But such is the power of ideas, as history has shown.

    Well, there now new ideas in the world. Here’s one, from an amazing woman named Riane Eisler: that human beings can choose to live in partnership, instead of always trying to dominate each other. This one concept could break humanity’s historic cycle of violence and suffering, and transform our whole world, from within our families to beyond our frontiers. Instead of striving to dominate Russia and China (and the rest of the world), we could just live in partnership and peace with them.

    Putting war out of the picture would free up over $100 million dollars an hour in the US budget. That would go a long way to making this country a better, safer, and healthier place of everyone. If we could use some real leadership and show the rest of the world the way to peace, we could free up over $220 million dollars an hour.

    Where is that money going now? It’s going to feed the war machine, which we’re watching slaughter thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians daily by the governments of supposedly “civilized” nations. Meanwhile, other thousands a day perish from starvation, so that merchants can profit from commodifying food. If we can stop this, we can be saving thousands of lives a day. There’s only one thing stopping us from making the change. As the cartoon character Pogo aptly put it, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

       Tolstoy wrote in War and Peace (I paraphrase), “If evil people can work together to do evil, why can’t good people work together to do good?” Our greatest obstacle is our inability to work together. In our culture, we’ve been taught to compete, to be the best, in the classroom, in sports, in politics, and even in the arts. Historically, even before we were “civilized,” we were already divided, only caring about our own group, clan, or tribe. Certainly not those “others,” who we were taught to fear! The Greeks called them “ethnoi,” outsiders. Today we still divide ourselves into “ethnic” groups, based on different languages and cultures, as well as into nations, and political alliances.

    Instead of unifying the forces seeking to change society for the better, we multiply groups, and separate our efforts among many seemingly disparate issues: human rights, police reform, immigration, ecology, pollution, climate change… the list goes on. And the mixture is stirred up constantly by the manipulation of two sold-out political parties, who we have allowed to take control of our government. They raise storms over social and cultural issues which, while important in their own way, are also designed to distract us from, for example, “following the money.” As the Wizard would have said, “Pay no attention to the $100 million dollars behind the curtain!” The media, of course, broadcasts our differences, and obscures our share interests, always telling us what to think. Anything but for ourselves!

    All of the above keeps us from realizing that what we really need to solve all of the problems we’re trying to resolve: political power! We keep handing it over to others, because we still don’t trust ourselves. We rail at the Republicans and Democrats and their follies, but we keep voting for them, instead of for ourselves. Let’s not forget what Occupy taught us; we are the 99% of the population. All we have to do to take back our government, peacefully and at no great expense, is to stop giving away our political power, and to learn how to work together to use it to change the laws that govern our society. We can remake our society, and if we can find some real leadership, help the rest of the world step back from the brink of the abyss we’re approaching today.

    As “Americans,” we’ve grown up with a nationalist world view. Our “leaders” did the same, and still trapped in the past, are still striving to maintain an empire. That old order is falling apart today, thank goodness! Technological advances, such as telecommunications and air travel, have made most of us begin to realize that those “others” are much like us. We all have the same basic human needs and nature; we’re all part of a diverse global human family. Let’s transcend our historic paranoia, and learn to share the world in partnership and peace. We human beings are supposed to be intelligent, right? We’re supposed to be able to learn, aren’t we? When are we going to start learning to stop killing each other, and live together in peace? As Rodney King, a black man made famous by beating beaten brutally by multiple police officers said after, “Can’t we all just get along?”

    Please join us in this vital conversation! No one person, no one organization, no one nation can make this happen. It will take all of us, talking, working, and deciding together. You don’t have to be a member of Peace Action to work for peace. You just have to be someone who thinks that everyone deserves a better life, in a better world, and be willing to help bring it about in any way you can.