As I cry for peace and war and loss, I’ve been thinking of the imagery evoked by the title and words of Elton John’s song, “Candle in the Wind”. It’s difficult to understand why achieving peace is so difficult, when that is what we all want.
Ultimately, we have to make a fundamental choice. One path is building community, believing our true happiness and needs are achieved by sharing our lives with others. We have a deep need to be connected to each other, and want to have opportunities to contribute to the quality of our community’s life. Community builds upon itself and expands as people find ever widening and deepening ways to live together.
The other path focuses on the self and acquiring material possessions. This separates one from community, and results in actions to protect what one has, even at the expense of others.
The impacts of either path spread throughout society like ripples in water. The path of community supports the expanding quality of life for all. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The path of materialism leads to isolation, oppression of others, conflict and war. This requires an enemy as a target to justify wars over resources. This path also expands as violence leads to further violence and oppression. This path infects our own society, highlighted by the recent radical militarization of our domestic police forces, turning our schools into prisons, government spying on us, and the destruction of civil liberties as a few examples.
The current disaster in the Middle East escalated with the first unprovoked invasion of another country by the United States. Despite efforts to try to convince the world otherwise, this unprovoked war was about Iraq’s oil supplies, and to provide a scapegoat for the 911 attacks.
The widening spiral of violence has created what are called terrorist organizations. While their atrocities can not be justified, it is clear these groups are fueled by resentment against military aggression and political marginalization.
It is essential to understand this if we are ever going to effectively address the “terrorist” problem. Continued military and political aggression in the Middle East, expanding now to include Syria, will only fuel the continued growth of terrorist organizations, and increase the likelihood of further terrorist acts in the United States. We need to change, to embrace the path of community, the common good, the brotherhood of all people.