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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
December 5, 2019

11/27/2019 10:30:00 AM
Peace is a lot harder to win than war
For the Daily News

In January 1942, barely a month after the United States was brought into a World War it wished it could have stayed out of, the idea of the United Nations was given voice by Franklin D. Roosevelt, our president. At the time, the whole world was involved in a war in some way or other. Widely differing ideologies, great disparities of wealth, individual freedoms and opportunities for a better life had pushed peoples into movements of psychotic patriotism that bulldozed over the "human nature" aspect of humanity itself.

In Germany, Russia, Italy and too many other places to mention, dictators motivated masses with hatred of others and placed blame on evils they claimed they could eradicate with righteous action and the help of Almighty God. There was a lack of will worldwide to stop it and war came to us all. My father, like his father before him, was sent off to war to end all this. They failed. To win a world war would require replacing it with a world peace. That has not happened.

Earlier this month, on Veterans Day, we honored all those who served. The 11:11:11/1918 moment marked an agreed end to the fighting on the Western Front in Europe in WWI. Many gave their lives to bring that moment about and too many have done so since to perfect it.

I, too, honor their service and sacrifice but unlike some, I would like to see it become entirely unnecessary.

That does not mean I am blindly idealistic, just pragmatic enough to see that something will have to change to prevent a war that will end wars among humans on this planet. It is a dilemma to at once understand the nature of being patriotic while at the same time wishing human rights could be protected everywhere.

In the Middle East, Palestinians once ruled over their own land. Now Israel has it, with the support of the United Nations, which saw giving it to them as a solution to the "What to do with the Jews of Europe?" problem that was centuries in the making.

The justification given was that all peoples deserve to have a homeland, equal among the nations of the world, as their recognized right. Less persuasive was the "God gave us this land" position Jews espoused that conveniently overlooks that God took it away, too. I'm not sure what God wants, but I don't think it matters in modern geopolitical terms if what we want, what I want for my children and grandchildren and yours, is peace.

Peoples denied a homeland to call their own sow the seeds of war. We know this because that sort of war we came from ourselves. It was not a perfect process, but the United States has tried to serve as a model for how to do what others have longed to do down through history. We found common cause in the freedoms we collectively believe are fundamental; Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear (Roosevelt again, in the same time period he coined the idea of a United Nations). We are still working on giving all of those to all of our citizens equally. The work is not finished, but grading on improvement I believe we will get there. I have faith in America. Yet I am fearful about her future.

Peace must be equitably won. The peace of a quiet moment from November 1918 in Flanders Fields was not that sort. It was the silences of corpses with their blood drained away from a whole generation that buried 10 million of its young men. It was the stillness of idled factories bombed to ruins and schools emptied of their students. The hope of a lasting peace has become foreign to us, partly because we have forgotten what it must be like.

Fortunately we created the United Nations to remind us. Why we don't support it now when its needed most is a mystery to me, but failure to do so is a mistake. We are back to "America First" as we parade our perceived might, thump our chests and sing our own praises. Other countries do these things as well or better than we do. This is a chorus of victory to those who made it happen. Those who think we must have a contest to show which side God really likes best have forgotten the lessons of war.

Humans are all of the same species. Humans all have the same rights, no matter where they live, and no matter where they've come from. If that's not true, then we will continue to have wars until humans have worn out their welcome on the globe.

The United Nation has in its charter the declaration of its faith in fundamental human rights, the dignity and worth of all human person, the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life for all while allowed the enjoyment of the greatest possible freedom.

Unless its member states promote the universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the realization of their pledges to honor them has been broken. That means no torture, no detention without trial, and a safe place to call home.

Quick quiz now - What is the right thing to do about the Kurds? (a) Support their struggle for a homeland and honor their participation at our side in the war against terrorism? Or (b) invite the invader of their lands to the White House for dinner?

Extra credit: Palestine? A country in need of autonomy, or a great place for a rodeo Labor Day weekend? (hint: not an either/ or answer; possible to argue for both).

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