Imagining Peace on Memorial Day 2015: Thinking Beyond Our Gated Communities

We American civilians live peacefully and comfortably in a gated community the size of our country, guarded by our military and law enforcement officials. But would we have to maintain this guarded posture, at huge taxpayer expense, if we did more to wage peace in the world, instead of waging war?

It’s been well-documented that it costs much less to educate a young person than to imprison him or her. And yet we still continue to pour resources into prisons, and starve our educational system.

Wars are fought for the rich and powerful, but those who die, whether as combatants or as bystanders, are usually drawn from the ranks of the poor. In war zones across the globe, we find young men (and sometimes women) drawn into combat because they lack educational and economic opportunities at home, and thus are easily lured into becoming pawns in the ideological war games of the elite. A recent Rand survey of enlisted U.S. Army personnel found that more than half joined the Army because there were no jobs to be found at home.

Summer Solstice 2014 Photo by Eric Hernandez

Summer Solstice 2014
Photo by Eric Hernandez

Imagine what would happen if instead of bringing guns and chemicals to poor regions around the world, we brought libraries and laptops and laboratories. Imagine what would happen if instead of throwing our young people into the maw of poverty and violence, we cultivated them lovingly and raised them to be productive contributors to their hometowns and homelands.

Imagine if this loving mindset could be extended not just to human beings but to every living being on our planet.

This Memorial Day, I am grieving not just for humans, but for all the birds, fish, mammals and plants that have been sacrificed to human aggression and greed.

The “collateral damage” of war is vast and too often unseen, at least by those of us fortunate enough to live far from the battlefields. Once in a while we catch a glimpse of what those on the frontlines are living through—for example, this week the beaches in one of the wealthiest enclaves on Earth, Santa Barbara, California, are being fouled by an oil pipe rupture. Maybe when the privileged denizens of Santa Barbara see wildlife washing up on shore in pitiful oily carcasses, they will begin to understand the havoc caused by our heedless American addiction to oil.

Photo c. Kenneth Song / The News-Press Mike Harris, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, prepares to rescue a pelican covered in oil on the beach about a mile west of Refugio State Beach, Calif., Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

Photo c. Kenneth Song / The News-Press
Mike Harris, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, prepares to rescue a pelican covered in oil on the beach about a mile west of Refugio State Beach, Calif., Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

The truth is that the rich and powerful get behind movements for change only when they are directly negatively affected.

Witness what happened back in the Vietnam era, when America began drafting the sons of the wealthy elites, and those boys started coming home in coffins or maimed for life. Suddenly there was an anti-war movement with real teeth, and that war was soon ended, along with the draft.

To end the fossil fuel era it is going to take a similar punch to the power centers of the fossil fuel industry, and the Oil Kings won’t give up without a fight.

What’s called for here is not a fist-fight, but a moral battle, an appeal to the powerful to do what’s right for all of us, before we all topple over the edge of environmental destruction.

This Memorial Day, I honor the fallen—soldiers and civilians, birds and trees, mammals and bees and butterflies—and call on the living to step up to the immense challenge of our time: taking a giant leap forward in human evolution, beyond tribalism, beyond shortsighted greed and aggression, towards the loving, compassionate and wise species we are meant to become.

old tree

Elder tree. Photo by J. Browdy 2014

Leave a comment

6 Comments

  1. A powerful reflection. A challenge to all of us to think better of our options. I like when you say ‘it costs much less to educate a young person than to imprison him or her.’

    Reply
  2. Rachele Oriente

     /  May 25, 2015

    Dear Jenny, Thank you for this piece. It rallies and invites reflection. Here is a relevant link to a current example of the harm of war extending to threaten extinction of a species. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32872350

    Reply
  3. Another wonderful piece that is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Interesting that we were both considering peace and the environment – albeit in different ways – this Memorial Day. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-husic/the-memorial-day-message-that-is-missing_b_7433224.html

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

       /  May 25, 2015

      Thank you for the link to your beautiful piece, Diane! I take heart that more of us seem to be thinking along these bigger-picture lines, seeing humans as just one thread in the grand tapestry of earthly life….ONWARD!!!

      Reply
      • Thank you Jennifer! A key is to figure out how to get these perspectives out to a larger audience to generate a wider dialog that counters the commercialized messages of mainstream media, the social media trolls, the deniers, the warmongers, etc. Quite a task, but there is great power in the pen (or keyboard keys).

  4. Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

     /  May 25, 2015

    Yes, that is definitely the challenge, Diane. Social media provides some amazing tools in that regard! Without being insular, through social media, and blogs like this one, we can find our tribe, and amplify each other’s voices into a lovely swelling chorus! Never give up!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: