Ignorance is Amiss

In facing this impending, seemingly inevitable war with Iraq, it is imperative that we educate and inform ourselves beyond that of television media. In what I would regard as the “Vietnam” of our generation, it appears–and perhaps is the case–that the voices in opposition of the war are not adequately heard or recognized on Capital Hill. Despite the current administration’s belief that this will be quick, clean war, there also exists a large populace in support of the more irenic approach; one that will offer us, above all, mediation and diplomacy. Mahatma Gandhi once stated, “Nonviolence requires much more courage than violence…” Surely, he knew first hand, as it was very much because of Gandhi’s hope and peaceful negotiation that he was able to bring forth and unite people in a resurgence of support, and ultimately free India from the control of British Imperialism. I too have hope for the future; however, we must make it a point to educate ourselves and become active members of our democracy. For none of our hopes remain mirages if we examine the ancient Greeks–thousands of years older than our civilization, our culture, yet they were just as advanced, if not more so… The clear-cut thinking of Plato and Aristotle was ages ahead of its time; their government (the working prototype and living manifestation of democracy) worked because people made it work: they voted, participated, acted. During the Greeks’ quests for the pursuit of knowledge, philosophy and education, the Roman Empire repeatedly tried and eventually successfully overthrew the Greeks. The Greeks did fight–they fought back with all their hearts to preserve and let live their hopes and accomplishments. Still, the Greek armies were no match for the larger, brute Roman Empires, and so they fell in battle. But it was not without avail; in retrospect, we continue to pursue the ideals of the Greeks and continually learn from their contributions. Thus, all was not lost…certainly the Greeks valued culture, education, philosophy more than they did their defense, and as a result, they live to this day. Similarly, the Czech Republic has survived the reigns of the Roman Empire and through the Nazi and Soviet eras. The Czechs have long stood at the crossroads of international affairs, but because they have rarely fought back physically as countries have marched through their borders, their towns and cities are among the best-preserved in Europe. Certainly, pacifism proves itself the more graceful and ultimately benign action in both these cases. These ceding nations offer us noble, exemplary actions by which to live: residing testimony to the power of pacifism. Surely, the paradoxical and proverbial “inaction is often the best action” has much merit here–likened even to Albert Einstein, such that in all of his accomplishment and contributions, he left us with the undying words: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Consistently, though, it is both painful and frustrating to see warmongers who insist only one option, have one initiative. And at that, the asides of the popculture sitcoms and humorous injections amongst Saturday Night Live too often come as a bittersweet truth. Unfortunately, what tends to reach the general public is what the television media portrays, and this information is bereft in its representation at best. Therefore, I wish you all to take it upon yourselves to educate yourselves beyond the nightly news. Listen to the BBC and other broadcasts that report on what the American News does not and will not. Read the less-sensationalized New York Times a couple days a week. I wish you all to realize that the nightly television news projections of war in Bosnia, in the Middle East, in India and Pakistan, in Israel and Palestine, only desensitize us to the actuality of the violence and horror of war. I do not desire to lessen the impact of the World Trade Center or Pearl Harbor attacks, but neither of these compare to the constant battering and atrocities committed in times past and throughout every day. Yet we look at these images on television and it all just seems like a movie to us–and a video game to kids…we are sheltered, confined, soon to be isolated if the current administration fulfills its intent of “preemptive action.” War should never be the first preference. We live in truly unique times. Bob Dylan’s lyrics, “The times are a-changin’…” ring true to this day; and with the changing times, it is important for us to change also, but not to disregard the past, in part ensuring that we not repeat our mistakes, but above all, ensuring that we learn from others and from ourselves. We shape our future together–through actions, through peace, through understanding.