Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Life Is Dear To All -- As Long As It's "My Life"

One who, while himself seeking happiness,

Oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness,

Will not attain happiness hereafter.

--Dhammapada 131

How is it that we continue to treat lunacy and murder as if they made sense?

How is it that we continue to behave as if mass murder were a legitimate solution to human problems?

It is that way because we tend to empathize with one side and not the other. Maybe we like Israel, and we identify with them because there are people shooting rockets at them and they are surrounded by hostile governments who exercise horrific rhetoric about them. Barack Obama himself said that if there were people shooting rockets at places where his own daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to stop them, and so should the Israeli people.

This is understandable. I can feel the emotional appeal of that argument myself. Touch one hair of my Gabriel's head, and I would be inclined to tear you limb from limb. There is, however, a problem with this argument, as with most arguments that rest on passion. This is the same justification used by terrorists. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

As long as we are using passions to examine human problems, put yourself in the position of a parent in a land occupied by a foreign power for two generations. You live quarantined, unable to move about freely to obtain work, and your children have trouble getting access to the nutrition and sanitation they need to live and thrive. Is there a possibility you would do something desperate?

The only sensible side to take in this stupid Gordian conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis is the side of humanity. If both sides truly wanted that, they would each make painful concessions at the negotiation table and put the life of their children before everything else. The sides should be pledging to help each other succeed rather than pledging each other's destruction. Hezbollah and Hamas are motivated by hatred, yes, and yes, there is a lack of honest negotiating partners -- I get that. Yet bombing innocent people does not root out hatred. Come, friends. It hasn't worked thus far. Are we going to give it a few more wars just in case?

The lunatic ideologies that move terrorists are bred in oppression and futility. And violence, of course.

It is typical, sadly, for human beings to raise their children to be soldiers in a glorious cause. The right cause, that being our side. We do not seek peace unless it is on our terms alone. Thus, we seek to win, above everything else, even when it is our own sons and daughters in harm's way. Our mythology must triumph against all other mythologies, and if this means I must bury my child's broken body, then this is -- this is -- further proof that my mythology must prevail!!

Our political leaders become a single party with their side-taking in this conflict, siding wholly with Israel and completely ignoring George Washington's warning to us: "The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave." (From his Farewell Address of 1796)

George Washington was not only talking sense about foreign policy - he was speaking wisdom to individuals as well. Habitual side-taking, positive or negative, is how people convert themselves into slaves who believe they are free. His words echo the wisdom of the buddhadharma, which remind us that we become slaves to our delusions. Our politics get infected with and then transmit this disease.

No more side-taking in this middle-east war, please. Both sides deserve a chance to live in peace, both sides need help in order to do that, starting with a right to live without fear of obliteration. This is not easy to do but it must start with an end to side-taking and, though I ask the improbable, an end to profiteering from death (as when we expedite sales and shipments of bombs to one side in the conflict). The only side to take here, I repeat, is the side of humanity -- if we want peace.

But you know what? I don't think many people actually want that. God as my witness, I think the truth is, human beings prefer this.


Pam said...

The only peoples that can truly make peace a reality in this region are the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Other countries, ourselves included, having been trying to broker peace for decades.

The people who live in this war-torn area have to decide what concessions, what compromises they are willing to make to bring about a true peace. Thus far that hasn't been achievable.

Lobbing rockets into Israel or the killing of innocent victims caught in the middle of bombings are not conducive to peace negotiations.

In Israel's defense, I will say that when the stated objective of the other side is to anihilate Israel, it doesn't bode well for fruitful talks.

There are no easy answers here. We can only do so much. There need to be better efforts by other countries in the region to try to broker peaceful co-existence.

Algernon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Algernon said...

Deleted comment was mine -- it didn't make any sense after I typed and posted it.

Pammy: Thanks for reading and commenting. It is easy, isn't it, to fall right back into side-taking?

We are supposed to be believe that our government has been involved only as a broker for peace, but it is hard to reconcile that with the facts. Granted, our rhetoric has opened up considerably, but we are still selling bombs and expediting shipment of same to one side in the conflict. That isn't how you broker peace. Ever.

Pam said...

That's true, Alg. But, I'm not really taking sides. I am able to see both sides in this. True, I'm more inclined toward the Israeli point or view; but, I don't necessarily agree with all the actions they take.

I also agree that our government makes no bones about being unabashed friends to Israel, including arms.

On the other side, Hamas makes no bones about wanting to anihilate Israel. That's a pretty untenable starting point. Both sides are intractable about key sticking points.

I stand by my comment that the other countries in the region should do more to broker a peaceful co-existence.

Sadly, if it were easy, much less blood would have been shed over decades of attempting to find a solution that would suit both sides.

Algernon said...

Exactly. The peace has to be on my terms. Thus, perpetual war. If that's what human beings want, let's just be honest about it.

You cannot engage in (and profit from) a middle-eastern arms race and pretend you're "brokering peace." Well, I guess you can, but here at the Burning House we call that bullshit.

As for being unabashed friends, we might have different ideas about how to be a good friend. Uncritically supporting a friend's self-destructive behavior is not real friendship, if you ask me.

Pam said...

And I don't entirely disagree with you, Alg.

I also have to shake my head at the Arab leaders who condemn the rocket launching of Hama, who are angry with them....but...who don't really want to get too close to the situation and don't want to get too involved.

Sheesh! These are the people in the region who need to be working to find a solution. Also, the Palestinians need to deal with Hamas themselves.

Basically, the other Middle Eastern countries need to step up to the plate and get their hands dirty.

*Sigh* This war over land has been ongoing for decades with no resolution. It's a terribly complex situation and I have no idea how it should be solved.

I hate war; I'm sick of war. I don't understand ideologies that want to anihilate other peoples. I don't understand terrorism.

I do have to ask if Israel's behavior is self-destructive or in self-defense?