Recently, Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, held a press conference to announce his upcoming bout with brain cancer. His grace and courage was inspiring to everyone. What surprises me is the man had to be facing death before others recognized his remarkable qualities.
I adored Jimmy Carter when he was president. Not many in the press seemed to feel the same. He lost an election because he chose to avoid a war with Iran when our embassy was invaded. Some called him a coward. Yet, because he showed restraint, Iran got tired of feeding and caring for their American hostages and sent them home. Not a single drop of blood was spilled. I call his decision his finest moment.
Too many old men in Congress beat war drums over the slightest offense, feeding the military-industrial complex so that our taxes are spent on violence rather than on children, the infrastructure or our medically indigent.
Some countries prize cowardice, believe it or not. Germany has dedicated a number of monuments to cowards. One reads , “To the Unknown Deserter.” Another, in Potsdam is my favorite: “To a man who refused to kill his fellow man.” (“The Bully’s Pulpit,” by David Graeber, The Baffler, #28, pg. 32.)
At the height of the Vietnam War, some people displayed a bumper sticker that read, “My Country: Love it or Leave.” The simplicity of the slogan should have embarrassed those who slapped it on to their car bumpers. These citizens failed to distinguish between a love of country and the need for a healthy suspicion of government. As Randolph Bourne, a progressive writer living prior to World War I, cautioned, war and rumors of war are devices wielded by those in power to keep a fearful population in check. To embrace war is to embrace the leaders who wield power in order to profit from it. War does not make us a better people or a better society. If anything, it divides us, impoverishes us and makes other nations fear us. (“The Bourne Identity,” by Andrew J. Bagevich, The Baffler, #28, pgs. 16-19)
In the 79 years I’ve lived on this planet, I’ve seen my country engaged in more wars and skirmishes than I have fingers to count them. We are a militarized nation, governed by too many who gain from the bloodshed of patriots. Was Obama’s peace initiative with Iran a good strategy? Yes! Should the money we saved by avoiding war go toward rebuilding failed nation-states? Yes! Let those who hunger for action wage war upon the industrial-military complex. Let the rest of our country make peace with the world.
(Originally posted 10/14/15)