Reviews | Embrace the Complexity of Peace

“Just imagine for once if we led the world to fund peace and not wars.”

Just imagine! The words are those of Robert Weissman, president of the organization Public Citizen, in response to the legislative efforts of Representatives Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan, who are the co-chairs of – hallelujah glory! – the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus. They recently introduced legislation that would cut Pentagon spending by $100 billion and divert the money to programs that have actually helped the country. . . for example, universal health care, eliminating child poverty, safeguarding the environment.

“Just imagine for once if we led the world to fund peace and not wars.”

Yeah, imagine. One can also quickly and inevitably imagine the cynicism that rushes in whenever someone utters the word “peace”. Then everything is pushed to the margins, both political and social, as America continues its business as usual of protecting itself from enemies (most of whom are created). The sales pitch is fear. The pattern, hidden in shadow, is an extraordinary profit for some.

The problem begins with the words themselves, which turn two complex and infinitely different enterprises – war and peace – into two objects on a shelf of trinkets. . .a plastic GI Joe, say, and a cute little angel. This is the essence of the American “debate” about what matters and what to do with its wealth. The debate is cynical and simplistic, reducing “peace”, in particular, to the weak counterpart of war. When the focus is on war, you always know what to do next. Saying the wrong guy (Joe Biden, for example), is elected president:

“We’ll have to make a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That’s what’s going to have to happen.”

The speaker is the currently incarcerated Elmer Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, who of course played a major role in the January 6 insurrection. His lyrics are both stunning and completely “normal”. Declare an enemy, then kill it. What about this, don’t you understand?

The thing is, this attitude isn’t just right-wing madness. It’s red, white and blue, “mission accomplished”, America with a constantly increasing defense budget. “Just imagine for once if we led the world to fund peace and not wars.” Everyone knows it’s practically impossible to imagine beyond the realm of fairy tales. What would that even mean? Funding peace, creating peace – it’s deeply complex, and too many Americans, certainly too many in leadership positions, don’t have time for complexity.

How, for example, do we handle all those embarrassing mass shootings, in schools, malls, churches, etc.? ? Gun control is not the answer because people need access to assault rifles and the like – in America we have the freedom to protect ourselves (ask George Zimmerman). The guys doing these mass shootings are lone wolves and generally mentally ill, so we need to step up our mental health efforts, which, mind you, doesn’t actually mean funding mental health programs (the Pentagon needs of this money). Is there another option?

“The aftermath of the attack also sparked a call from several prominent Republicans to arm teachers,” according to Common Dreams.

And to that end, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently signed a bill “allowing teachers to carry a gun to class after only 24 hours of firearms training.” This represents a drop from the 700 hours of training previously required of school staff. What could go wrong with that?

“A madness has set in,” the NAACP’s tweeted. Sherrylyn Ifill.

It seems to be — or so it seems beyond the world of guns, violence, and easy fixes. In his book The Powers That Be, Walter Wink talks about the “myth of redemptive violence”: the belief that violence saves us. Indeed, “it doesn’t sound mythical at all,” he writes. “Violence just seems to be in the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflict. If a god is what you turn to when everything else fails, violence certainly works like a god.”

He is an infernal god to worship and obey. Here are some statistics: In 2020, the most recent year for which data is available, 45,222 people in the United States were killed by firearms. Nearly 53 people are killed every day by firearms.

And across different oceans, at least a million people have died in recent American wars – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and other countries. And, oh yes, more than 30,000 American veterans have committed suicide as a result of those wars, according to the Costs of War Project, which seems to indicate that the god of redemptive violence isn’t the only one we worship. For many people, another God appears after war and violence, especially when someone is all alone with themselves. Suddenly, lives – lives lost – can start to count.

“Unnecessary defense spending does not make our communities safer – it only weakens our ability to respond to crises,” said MP Lee.

It refers, of course, to complex responses: providing food and health care for the hungry, the sick; addressing the root causes of crime and social instability; listen to people and heal wounds rather than just punishment and armed self-defense; allow our empathy to transcend national borders; rethink our relationship with planet Earth and place our priorities on sustaining it rather than exploiting it.

“Just imagine for once if we led the world to fund peace and not wars.”

Sharon D. Cole