Be the Peace You Want to See on Earth
By David Swanson
"And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we've been told from our birth
Hell they won't lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar's word worth
And what happened to peace on earth"
When President Barack Obama joined the ranks of Henry Kissinger and the other gentle souls who have received Nobel Peace Prizes, he did something that I don't think anyone else had previously done in a Peace Prize acceptance speech. He argued for war
"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 Jr. said in this same ceremony years ago
But, you know, I've never found any opponent of war who didn't believe there was evil in the world. After all, we oppose war because it is evil. Did Martin Luther King, Jr., stand idle in the face of threats? Are you serious? Did King oppose protecting and defending people? He worked for that very goal! Obama claims that his only choices are war or nothing. But the reason people know the names Gandhi (who was never given a Nobel Peace Prize) and King is that they suggested other options and proved that those other approaches could work. This fundamental disagreement cannot be smoothed over. Either war is the only option or it is not -- in which case we must consider the alternatives.
Couldn't we have halted Hitler's armies without a world war? To claim otherwise is ridiculous. We could have halted Hitler's armies by not concluding World War I with an effort seemingly aimed at breeding as much resentment as possible in Germany (punishing a whole people rather than individuals, requiring that Germany admit sole responsibility, taking away its territory, and demanding enormous reparations payments that it would have taken Germany several decades to pay), or by putting our energies seriously into the League of Nations as opposed to the victor-justice of dividing the spoils, or by building good relations with Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, or by funding peace studies in Germany rather than eugenics, or by fearing militaristic governments more than leftist ones, or by not funding Hitler and his armies, or by helping the Jews escape, or by maintaining a ban on bombing civilians, or indeed by massive nonviolent resistance which requires greater courage and valor than we've ever seen in war.
We have seen such courage in the largely nonviolent eviction of the British rulers from
If you can't accept that World War II could have been avoided, there is still this crucial point to consider
Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda to lay down its arms? How would President Obama know that? The
Get out of our country. Stop bombing us. Stop threatening us. Stop blockading us. Stop raiding our homes. Stop funding the theft of our lands.
We ought to satisfy those demands even in the absence of negotiations with anyone. We ought to stop producing and selling most of the weapons we want other people to "lay down." And if we did so, you would see about as much anti-U.S. terrorism as the Norwegians giving out the prizes see anti-Norwegian terrorism.
Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama disagree, and only one of them can be right. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, King said
"Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the
the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
Love? I thought it was a big stick, a large Navy, a missile defense shield, and weapons in outerspace. King may in fact have been ahead of us. This portion of King's 1964 speech anticipated Obama's speech 45 years later
"I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.…I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up."
Other-centered? How odd it sounds to imagine the
On October 2, 2010, a broad coalition held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in
The peace movement was included in the rally, if not given top billing, and many peace organizations took part. We found that, among all of those tens of thousands of union members and civil rights activists who showed up, virtually all of them were eager to carry anti-war posters and stickers. In fact the message "Money for Jobs, Not Wars," was immensely popular. If anyone at all disagreed, I haven't heard about it. The theme of the rally was "One Nation Working Together," a warm message but one so vague we didn't even off end anyone enough to produce a counter-rally. I suspect more people would have shown up and a stronger message would have been delivered had the headline been "Bring Our War Dollars Home!"
One speech outshone all others that day. The speaker was 83-year-old singer and activist Harry Belafonte, his voice strained, scratchy, and gripping. These were some of his words
"Martin Luther King, Jr., in his 'I Have a Dream' speech 47 years ago, said that
"The Central Intelligence Agency, in its official report, tells us that the enemy we pursue in
"Does this make any sense?
"The President's decision to escalate the war in that region alone costs the nation $33 billion. That sum of money could not only create 600,000 jobs here in
In November 1943, six residents of
In 1997, on the 60th anniversary of the bombing of
Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights is an international organization, based in the
Peaceful Tomorrows is an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11, 2001, who say they have, "united to turn our grief into action for peace. By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism. Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone."
So must we all.
David Swanson is the author of "War Is A Lie"