Reflection: Peace Price
By Jane Lee Wolfe | Photo by Lightstock.com
At a fine, lazy party in Washington, DC, I heard one friend ask another.
“Why can’t they figure out how to clean up the Potomac River without killing everything in it?”
“Oh, they know how,” the other friend replied, “but no one could tolerate it.”
“What do you mean?” the first replied.
“To simply aerate the water would clean the river,” the expert said, “but the smell would be so horrible no one could stand it.”
Takeaway: It is possible to clean the river so it is fresh and able to host abundant life going forward. But no one could stand it.
Today’s Question: Is it possible to clean up USA culture so that it is fresh and able to host abundant life going forward? That would be Peace. However, would creating Peace so cause so much distress that no one could stand it? The question is valid.
We are a deeply militant, deeply violent, deeply self-absorbed society. We like to win. Winning is more important than Peace. We did not think this up, the violence and triumphalism is integral to Western Christianity, and the culture of the USA is Western Christian and has been since the get-go. Holy Roman Empire, Prayer Warriors, a national anthem that talks about rockets and bombs, and Victory. We love victory.
We love to own things, too. We don’t even understand what sharing means, or why that would be advantageous. A nightmare example: When the Euro-settlers came to the area of Lake Tahoe, they were tired, thirsty and hungry. The indigenous people led them to Lake Tahoe where they could refresh, restore, fish and return to health. Four years later, the Euro-settlers “owned” the lake and the Indigenous community was banned from accessing it in any way.
How many people and cultures have tried to teach us about peace and co-existence but we have not been able to hear or learn? Indigenous communities are one example. It looks as though we consider Peace not a way of life inclusive and respectful of all creation, humanity included. It looks as though we consider Peace a time to rest and reload, make some money and get ready for the next opportunity for victory.
What would it take for us to learn about Peace; Peace that did not include victory and ownership of the land and its resources? That would be really different for us, and hard; we love to be in control. Could we survive the stink that moving to actions based on consensus with others would cause? Others who do not believe that victory is all important and that owning resources makes you great? Could we survive the reality of putting down arms and joining in community with people we are trained to consider inferior? Can we survive learning to be equal, neither better nor worse than anyone else?
We can survive the road to Peace, to a clean and abundant culture that encourages abundant health and freshness for everyone. It will take everything we’ve got in terms of faith in ourselves, others and God. We will suffer terribly when the way chosen is not our way. We will have to trust the wisdom of people who are not “us.” This is the dangerous path to the Promised Land we must travel. Tomorrow’s walk is unclear – but justice, kindness and humility are in the promise – and maybe the cleaned-up Potomac River too.
Jane Lee Wolfe is a parishioner of St. James-Woodstock, Vt. and Director of Bog Chapel, Inc., an educational not-for-profit organization that focuses on the spiritual health and spiritual fitness of human beings, from youth through old age.