I have been upset since reading this article: How We Learned Not To Care About America’s Wars, Sixteen years of autopilot wars, but who’s counting? by Andrew Bacevich. Published on the Common Dreams website.
As a Quaker and someone who believes in nonviolence, and has worked for peace during my life, I realize I, too, have become desensitized to our country’s endless wars. I see the truths in this article.
Consider, if you will, these two indisputable facts. First, the United States is today more or less permanently engaged in hostilities in not one faraway place, but at least seven. Second, the vast majority of the American people could not care less.
Americans don’t attend all that much to ongoing American wars because:
1. U.S. casualty rates are low.
2. The true costs of Washington’s wars go untabulated.
3. On matters related to war, American citizens have opted out.
4. Terrorism gets hyped and hyped and hyped some more.
5. Blather crowds out substance.
6. Besides, we’re too busy.
7. Anyway, the next president will save us.
8. Our culturally progressive military has largely immunized itself from criticism.
Reading through the online readers’ comments, people expressed appreciation, or wanted to be told what to do about it. Most cited ways they had been involved in protests, but when those didn’t achieve any change, they gave up.
In 1650, George Fox (Quaker) wrote “I told them I knew from whence all wars arose … and that I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars, that I was come into the covenant of Peace which was before all war and strife.” This expresses one of the fundamental principles of Quakers, that we look at our own lives, and live them as consistently as we can with our spiritual/moral beliefs, both for our own integrity, and as probably the only real way we have of influencing others.
Quakers believe God or the spirit continues to be present in the world today, and that if we listen closely we can discern what we should do, especially when we can’t find an answer by ourselves. We worship in silence together, listening for guidance. We routinely consider, together, answers to sets of questions about how we are living our lives, called queries. As an example, the queries about peace and nonviolence are:
• What are we doing to educate ourselves and others about the causes of conflict in our own lives, our families and our meetings? Do we provide refuge and assistance, including advocacy, for spouses, children, or elderly persons who are victims of violence or neglect?
• Do we recognize that we can be perpetrators as well as victims of violence? How do we deal with this? How can we support one another so that healing may take place?
• What are we doing to understand the causes of war and violence and to work toward peaceful settlement of differences locally, nationally, and internationally? How do we support institutions and organizations that promote peace?
• Do we faithfully maintain our testimony against preparation for and participation in war?
This article is a reminder that I need to consider these queries more carefully.
Quaker education is important as a way to teach our children how to examine their lives and live according to moral principles and spiritual guidance. Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) operates Scattergood Friends School and Farm, near West Branch, Iowa.
One of the root causes of our ongoing wars is materialism, and more specifically, protecting resources, mainly oil, both in the Middle East, and in places like North Dakota. The enormous energy demands of our lives–often more than one personal automobile per family, large homes, even travel by air, are what drive our wars for energy resources, at home and abroad.
The stunning commitment to nonviolence and prayer by the water protectors at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and those around the world supporting them, is an example of how we can begin to change this.
Another root cause is fear of “others”. Feeling our way of life is threatened by those who aren’t exactly like us. That life is zero-sum, when helping someone else takes away something from us. This is used as another justification for wars, targeting “terrorists”, and inhumane policies related to immigrants within and beyond our borders. This is rapidly becoming a major issue as millions of people will be displaced by rising sea levels, devastating storms, fires, significant areas of desertification, and increasing areas where the air temperature is simply too high for life. This is happening now, and all of these things will get much worse very quickly.
We were recently reminded of a visit to our Quaker meeting in 2001 by a delegation from North Korea. Meeting member Herbert Standing said at the time, “We must tell people that it is not through missiles and bombs that we find security and peace, but rather through the one-on-one sharing with persons of different countries, cultures and experiences.”
As an example of another way to reduce the chances of war, Bear Creek meeting has extended an invitation for another visit by people from North Korea.
One of the things you can do to help is to tell your representatives that you do not support the gigantic amount of money in our budget for the military. https://www.fcnl.org/search?q=military+budget
One of my dreams is that one day the U.S. will no longer have a standing army, as Costa Rica decided in 1948:
This article is a reminder that I need to look more carefully at my own life and re-energize working for peace.