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Dwelling with those who hate peace

March 2, 2008

Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am a man of peace, but when I speak they are for war- Psalm 120:6-7

It’s hard to explain how being out of the country for six months has made me feel like I better understand America. Maybe it’s because I feel more American here where I am part of a small minority. Maybe it’s because I read everything I can about the US when I find it online or in the newspaper. Regardless, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

One. America has macaroni and cheese. The Philippines does not. I’ve lost weight but I can’t say it’s been worth it.
Two. America has money. (Not all Americans, but America- yes). Lots of it.
Three. Money rules the world.
Four. America loves war. Loves everything that comes with it- bombs, guns, flagrant superficial patriotism.
Five. War makes money.

I know many people would want to debate number four. After all, who loves war? Surely not the people who lose sons and daughters. Sometimes I wonder if this group of people becomes jaded into thinking that war is noble, that war MUST be noble as to justify the loss of their loved one. But referring to the opening scripture, I can hardly say these are the people who hate peace.

Do the soldiers hate peace? It’s an interesting question. They seem to favor the politicians who have sent them to war. For the most part, war as we wage it today is different than how their grandfathers fought. The killing is mostly anonymous. Machine gun fire into the bushes, rocket launches from a distance, and most often bombings from the sky. (More on that later.) Certainly they receive horrid *horrid* health care and benefits when they return home and soldier’s widows often live in poverty, but that’s rarely enough to make them turn on the army. Soldiers are trained for violence, they’re hyped up about weaponry and killing. Many marines refer to fighting in combat as “getting some”, a phrase also used to describe having sex. (Sadly, I think that’s meant to be a positive correlation.) Still, I don’t think they hate peace. They’ve been trained to love war but most of them will grow up to face the consequences of their government’s violence. Surely, they can’t hate peace.

But someone must. Someone in America must hate peace. Otherwise, why so little of it? Since WWII America’s wars have not been retaliation for another country invading our soil. I suppose some (most) would say that we’ve attacked other countries only when they’ve bombed our embassies, tried to assassinate our leaders, or for God’s sake September 11th! I guess it depends on your point of view. The American military bombs embassies, they participate in assassinations of foreign leaders, they drop depleted uranium missiles on targets knowing full well it’s going to kill civilians whose only crime is that they live in a country America hates. Do these countries have the right to attack us in turn? Assuming what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, when will this end?

Arms suppliers hate peace. Weapons manufacturers hate peace. American military suppliers hate peace so much that they sell weaponry to countries that hate us. Then, when these countries are fully armed, the US Government has to buy its own military bigger guns and bombs and more uranium missiles to use against the aforementioned nation. If world leaders were all sitting around a table talking about how we could institute foreign economic policies that are fair and just, these suppliers wouldn’t make any money. And if by some miracle global leaders were able to work out a just economic peace, then those suppliers would go out of business. Peace doesn’t make corporate profit.

I may be accused of spin if I spell out facts, so I’ll leave it to you to look up what stocks are owned by which national politicians. Don’t just go googling the Bush camp though, check up on the Clintons too. In fact, if you have some time, look at all of them. Every single one of them have money invested in a stock market that surges anytime the military spends money bombing the hell out of someone else. I’m pretty sure capitalistic economics hates peace.

I try to be a person of peace. I haven’t dwelt anywhere that long, but already I, like many others, am tired of war. I’m tired of being told that I hate America because I think an Iraqi life is just as valuable as an American one. I’m tired of living in a country that so many people want to Christianize as long as it only applies to prayer in schools and putting an end to abortion. American Christianity so often stops at the national flag. And while it’s stopped there it looks the other way when its government rains hell from the sky on God’s darker-skinned children. I am not immune from blame. When I speak out against the war, I allude to the amount of tax dollars spent (more than $14,000 a minute in Iraq alone) and the mistreatment of American veterans (who make up 60% of the male homeless population). I rarely talk about the Arabs breathing in poisonous chemicals or the disproportionate number of children born in Serbia with unnatural birth defects. It’s wrong for me to be so self-righteous as to assume that my fellow Americans hate peace. We just can’t. We just can’t claim to know God and hate peace.

Loving peace is more than just hating war. To love peace, true peace, is to love justice- to love justice so much that you want it for everyone. It means we have to want reparations and apologies not just for Americans but for the people America has wronged (some of whom are still Americans). It means we have to want a living wage not just for ourselves but for farmers and workers in our communities as much as for those around the world. Loving peace means we have to sacrifice our comfort with the status quo, means acknowledging that the same systems that grant us so much surplus put a choke hold on people we’ve never met. Loving peace is hard.

But what is the alternative? To hate peace is to turn our face from the oppressed, is to live apart from God. Surely, we live in a society of excess that hates justice, that hates peace, so as Christians we are called to be counter-cultural, to resist societal oppression as Christ would. To stand with those most marginalized.

So long as I dwell among those who love war, I will not cease my calling for peace.

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