Reflections on Conflict and Human Nature
People ask me every day, as I assume all people are asked, “Hello, how are you?” I give my usual response by rote, a basic affirmation of life itself: “I am doing well, life is good.”
However, if asked to reflect a little more deeply, I might confess that I have spent most of my life in a continuous state of melancholy, a subtle sadness for the state of the World and its conflicts which I find to be both distressing and depressing.
I have been told that this is no good, unhealthy, that I should change.
I am left to wonder how I could, with the world being in the state that it is. Setting aside the issues we have with the leadership of our government in America in 2018. I have been having these feelings my whole life, it seems. I grew up under the specter of the threat of Nuclear War. I can recall the resignation of disgraced president Nixon. I was in fifth grade when the Iran hostage crisis began. I was aware of the United States’ illegal conflict in Central America, and the Iran Contra hearings. Things crystallized for me on the 5th of June, 1989 (the day I started writing this essay), when in China 2,600 people were killed for waging a non-violent demonstration against their dictatorial government. Ultimately 10,000 people, maybe more, would be killed by Chinese soldiers firing into the crowd of 1.2 million, in Tiananmen Square, the gates of heavenly peace.
Today, twenty-nine years later, as a man approaching his fiftieth year, I look back on my life, and the times that I have lived in and I see a continuous progression of tragedies and travesties peppering it.
The Vietnam War, in which the United States military killed 3,000,000 people. Some were soldiers, most were not. My father served in it. We pulled out in 1975, the Vietnamese are still recovering from what we did to them.
I have watched the failure of the Palestinians to secure their freedom, and peace with Israel. More importantly I have watched the failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its persecution of the Palestinian people, and the apartheid conditions they force the Palestinians to live under.
Last week the world looked on and largely ignored dozens of murders committed by the Israeli defense forces as they shot unarmed civilians, and target journalists with sniper fire, Killing dozens, and wounding thousands.
I watched the mismatched conflict of the First Gulf War, where the United States staged a grand display with allied forces from around the world, and we slaughtered nearly 500,000 Iraqis, the common soldiers of a despotic regime who had no hope of surviving, 30,000 people killed in one bombing run, a caravan of troops heading North, fleeing Kuwait city, going home.
I was serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy at the time, though not in the theatre of conflict. I was ashamed to listen to other Corpsman talk boldly of picking up arms and fighting, of killing “the enemy,” when they had each sworn oaths to save lives.
Fourteen years later the United States prosecuted the Second Gulf War utilizing falsified reports and bogus claims that Saddam Hussein’s regime had been stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. We killed in another 2,000,000 Iraqi’s in that conflict, and discovered that there were no chemical, biological, or radiological weapons to be found. Those who perpetrated the conflict knew this to be true, they knew it all-along.
I watched, together with the whole world as we all stood by and did nothing in 1994, we watched as somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Rawandans were butchered by their countrymen, in a conflict fueled by inter-tribal rivalry. It took place over the course of just a few days, with most of the killings done by hand, up-close and personal with knives, machetes and axes. They dumped the bodies in the rivers, so many bodies and parts of bodies that it stopped the river’s flow.
These are just some of the more sensational conflicts that have taken place in the past few decades.
Here in my home country, the citizens of the United States are just becoming aware of how unjust and intransigent our system of justice is, if your ethnicity is that of a minority group, if and only if.
Un-armed black men are killed by police with impunity. The police only have to say that they were in fear for their lives, and they walk away from the killings without being charged, or if charged found innocent, most of them keep their jobs.
They can shoot a man in the back, shoot a man lying face down on the ground, shoot a man complying with their orders, reaching for his ID, in the car with his wife and child. Men and women can die in custody, handcuffed in the back of a squad car, hand cuffed in the back of a police van, in their jail cell with the cameras and microphones disabled and turned off.
The can pull up on a child at a park with a toy gun and shoot him within two seconds of arriving, because they “afraid,” and they will not be punished.
Our ethnic minorities, our fellow citizens, our fellow Americans are more likely to stopped by the police, and when stopped they are more likely to be searched, when searched and some form of contraband is found they are more likely to be arrested. When members of minority groups are arrested they are more likely to be charged with a crime, when charged and prosecuted they are more likely to be found guilty, when found guilty they are more likely to be punished to the maximum extent of the criminal code than white people, members of the ethnic majority are in the same circumstances.
In America, tens of thousands of people die every day from hunger and disease. We have the resources to end these injustices, but we do nothing.
Around the world we clear cut forests, burning them up to make way for farms, at the rate of 100,000 acres per day. We poison our fields and lakes, our rivers and oceans, the air we breathe, the atmosphere we share, for short-term profits.
In America, in Michigan, in Flynt we have allowed whole cities to be poisoned with lead, tens of thousands of people, children, lied to by their government, which denied that the problem existed for years and then failed to put a plan together to rectify it, all for the sake of lining the pockets of greedy corporations who had contributed to their political ambitions. Democratic rule suspended, emergency managers appointed, selling off the assets of town and cities to the highest bidder, cutting through “red-tape,” overturning regulations, covering up crimes without remorse.
I cannot list all of the tragedies that I have witnessed, the tragedies that are taking place all over the world, there are too many.
Like me, there are many who are saddened by the state of the world, disturbed by it, as we watch the continuous progress we are making toward irrevocable disaster.
We are our own worst enemy.
When a person, any person, takes a moment to become still, quiet, silent, when they open their eyes, when they listen with the ear of the heart, they will understand who they are as a part of the world. And members of the greater-whole
To experience one’s self as whole and healthy is to understand yourself as a being in relationship, as a being of relationships. Then, to experience one’s self as whole and healthy, the world itself must be whole and healthy. This places the imperative on us to work for the wholeness and health of the world, the whole world, planet Earth.
Genuine happiness, true fulfillment is dependent on this.
Do you recall the wisdom in this expression: Together we stand and divided we fall?
We must stand together.
We live on a planet, in a universe that is one thing. Our world is one thing and we are a part of it, as every person is.
The part resides in the whole, as the whole resides in the part, as the nucleus of the cell contains the DNA the forms the whole person.
Do you remember this expression: A house divided against itself cannot stand?
We must be in accord, be in communion, if we intend on surviving and fulfilling our potential, both as individuals and as humanity writ large.
Together we are strong, I am strong, and you are strong. Humanity is strongest when we are together and there is a great future ahead of us, awaiting all of our progeny, wherever we may go, as far from home we might wander, even when we ravel beyond the light of our home star.
We will fall apart and will continue to crumble, so long as we accept the lies that allow the illusion of division to keep us separated.
All life is one.