Friday, July 21, 2006

I Hate War and so does Eleanor

My friend in Toronto runs a chat forum with an eclectic international clientele who at any given moment may offer an opinion that will make you scurry to find out where the humanity went. Then there is me, who tends to stir up shit just because anything less than controversial tends to boredom, the worst of the deadly sins (I made that up, unless you include “sloth”).

Therefore when a recent post bragged about being related to Robert Duvall because the actor and the poster had a “common ancestor,” I felt compelled to reply that, in fact, all living human beings have a common ancestor. This is both mathematically provable as well as scientifically. Therefore, this forum-chatter had no special claim, as he thought he did, of relativity to Robert Duvall.

Besides the obvious wise-guy response that my tack took, I have been thinking about this aspect of humanity—that we are all, the world over, related in DNA and no doubt with some person centuries ago who is common to everyone who lives on the planet—and how futile are the contentions we make between us now, which cause such untold grief.

It’s one thing to look back at human history and marvel at the atrocities that were committed because people can’t get along. It’s another, in the current day and age of global communication, to think that any individual or group in a leadership position, would not understand the sophisticated concept that there is no difference among human beings of the earth—fighting against each other will only prolong the ultimate goal of learning how to overcome the calamities of nature—physical and natural. There a re enough disasters of weather and nature, and germs and sickness, to fulfill all the desires of suffering for our species. We don’t need any help from our fellow humans, there’s enough trouble to go around.

The war in Israel and Lebanon is a case in point. I just watched a Lebanese woman interviewed on CNN telling about the promises Hisbullah made to her to rebuild her shattered home and life once the current fighting stops. She hopes that more Israelis are killed, because they are the enemy and the reason for her suffering. If I taught my children that anything missing in their lives was because there are too many Mexicans in California, they would believe it and repeat it. This Hizbullah woman has been indoctrinated as have millions of Jews and Arabs since birth, to hate each other. They don’t even know why any more—the hatred is an entity all by itself.

There can’t be peace where people suffer. There will always be the element among those who suffer who will blame the "oppressors," and resist putting down their arms. Then there are the demigods, like Nasrallah who heads Hizbullah, who cares nothing for Lebanon or its people, except whether it gets him air time on cable news:

“What happened in Lebanon today might open a way out of the crisis in Gaza,” Nasrallah proclaimed the night his war began. “In other words, the Israelis are saying we don't want to negotiate with Hamas … We say: All right. Israel usually negotiates with us. At first they say no, but then they accept.” Then Nasrallah made his gambit perfectly clear. “We don't object to a joint Lebanese-Palestinian effort in this connection to emerge from this crisis” to end the “barbaric detention of 10,000 prisoners in Israeli prisons.” Nasrallah miscalculated badly, and not only for himself. Amid the death and destruction wrought by the new Lebanon war, the continued suffering of the Palestinians under siege in Gaza has been all but forgotten; the issue of Palestinian prisoners has dropped off the map and Israeli ground forces almost certainly will take new Lebanese captives in the current fighting.—Dickey, Newsweek, Best-Laid Plans 7/21/06

Further, the Israeli push is to emulate the neutering of Milosevic in Yugoslavia—but here’s a difference, as Chris points out:

But Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is powerless. Nasrallah started this war, not him, and Siniora can’t stop it. Milosevic, moreover, was a cynical politician who wanted to survive. Nasrallah is a religious demagogue who exalts a cult of martyrdom. Milosevic was the president of a state, and his great ambitions were based on a primitive, narrow nationalism. Nasrallah is at once a militia leader and a would-be leader of global Islamic radicalism. The fate of the Lebanese state is, in many ways, irrelevant to him.

So we’re back to the common ancestor. Sounds like an academic word-play, in some Ivy-League tower removed from the reality of ground skirmishes, heat, tanks, crummy WWII missiles lobbed into civilized neighborhoods. Why doesn’t the US just nuke the whole Middle east and call the game? I’ve heard that from friends and family, while they sip their herbal teas and decaf lattes.

The losers are the ones who get shot or bombed. That is real pain, on a human one-by-one level. Southern Lebanon was rebuilt before, it can rise again. A child who loses a limb, that parent cannot retrieve that loss, no matter what.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I spoke with an old friend who had helped with some computer therapy years ago, that is still available for students to help with reading and processing of language. The program is called “Fast Forward” from Scientific learning Corporation, and we spoke to this therapist about helping a young cousin with learning difficulties. Today the report in the on line Orange County Register is that Terry Antonius just made it back from Lebanon by the skin of his chinny chin chin.

Anxious to escape the region and frustrated by a slow response by the U.S. Embassy to announce evacuation plans, Antonius on Wednesday boarded a cousin's 57-foot-long boat along with other family members.

They sailed from Beirut to Cyprus – a 105-mile, 19-hour trip, and Antonius was then able to board a flight arranged by the U.S. government.

He traveled more than 40 hours on his return home.

"I didn't give up," he said, his eyes wet with tears just moments after being reunited with his family. "There was a door open, and I took it. I wasn't going to wait any longer."

We like to believe here in the good ole USA that none of this foreign debacle bothers us. Morris Dees, founder and lead attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, just sent an appeal for funds for his latest project—a civil suit against the “four white men involved in the beating and dumping of Billy Ray's almost lifeless body. He may not be able to speak for himself but, with your help, we will seek justice for him and his family.”

On September 27, 2003, Billy Ray Johnson, a mentally-challenged 43-year-old black man, was lured to a late night beer-drinking party in a pasture on the edge of Linden by a 19-year-old white teenager. The Cass County District Attorney said, "He was their entertainment for the night."

Billy Ray was taunted by a group of white teenagers, encouraged to pick up hot coals from the bonfire, called racist names and told that the Ku Klux Klan would get him. He was knocked unconscious by one of the white men, loaded in the back of a pickup truck and dumped beside a rural country road in an area infested with fire ants and wild hogs. The group believed that he might die and did not want to take him to the hospital. His body was covered with fire ant stings, he suffered permanent brain damage, and he is now confined to a nursing home.

Linden's 73-year-old white mayor said that he "was not surprised that the white teens used the n-word ... the black boy was somewhere he shouldn't have been, although they brought him there." Calling a 43-year-old black man a "boy" also seems common talk around Linden.—Southern poverty Law Center

What is it about us and our “common ancestor?” This little town in Texas, with all this hatred built in and up—what are they afraid of that they have to take it out on some poor guy who has a different skin color? All this fear and hatred—is that what our parents have taught us?

Are we so bad? Should God and the Angels call it off once and for all and admit this was an experiment that really wasn’t worth the pain caused to innocent people?

There is a thread on that Toronto forum that asks what is the meaning of life. At the end of the seminal science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still, the all-knowing alien, in the form of actor Michael Rennie, addresses the crowd of scientists at the foot of the Washington Monument. What he says is as clear a condemnation of human foibles as I have ever heard, and the solution is also the best possible. It’s a science fiction film over ½ century old, and I still believe it has a meaning for us now:

I am leaving soon and you'll forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression by any group anywhere can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first signs of violence they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is we live in peace without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer.

The decision rests with you.

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