Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A plan for peace

When we were very young, my brother and I came on a plan that could have improved the world a lot if we'd found anybody willing to implement it. You see, he and I, like many siblings, quarrelled pretty constantly over some really stupid things - whose turn it was to keep our baby sister entertained, for instance, or whether that cloud looked more like a rabbit or a tractor.

And one day, in the late afternoon, we came to an Understanding. We were working together, out in the yard, gathering up the mowed grass for composting - a substantial chore when the yard covered more than an acre, but we worked efficiently, tossing the grass into the wagon attached to the tractor (we had a really cute little tractor, sort of like a riding lawn mower but with attachments for tilling, etc.) and looking forward to the mini-hayride we'd have when it was over. And there, as we worked, we realized that we were getting along very well, and decided together that the rest of the world should get to share this, since it was such a wonderful feeling. So we decided that the path to peace was to get world leaders who were fighting with each other to come and do our chores, while we went off blackberrying. It would be a sacrifice, to be sure, but we were willing to share...

Both of us still remember that afternoon and evening, watching the sun go down from the back of the wagon. And we'd still like to share that peace with the rest of the world. But I've come to realize that while important, turning the hearts of rulers is not enough. Rulers shape waves, but they also ride them, and it's important to look at the underlying waters to understand where those waves are going. And most of the people of the world don't need more chores. They need hope.

How many of the people involved in this latest plot had any hope for themselves and their families? How many felt that they were constantly struggling in a world that held the quality of their lives cheap? I don't gamble, but I'd be willing to lay odds on that one. And they are not the only ones without hope. The number one killer of young African-American men is violence. It doesn't even make the top ten for whites. How many airliners would have to go down to equal the gun violence in our cities? What about the millions of Americans who lack access to healthcare? What about the millions worldwide who lack access to clean water? How many die in despair and neglect for want of the basics?

The path to peace is even harder than keeping beans clear of weeds (the chore I was most eager to offload onto some world leader) and it involves true commitment to meeting the needs of everyone, because the breeding ground of hatred and war is watered with ignorance, want, hunger, and deprivation. For starters, lets try actually talking to the people involved in this plot - and leave the thumbscrews at home, boys and girls - and listening to what they say. Many interrogators have come forward to say that the most effective thing they could do was shut up, treat the person with respect, and listen. Amazing.

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