Sunday, December 18, 2011

Post #118 - Making a Difference

Nuremburg, Bavaria, 1945-46
Justice Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor at Nuremburg, enunciated the principle of "universality" in international law quite plainly and prophetically: "If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them...the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow."

I believe that we must make the United States once again an example unto the world, by:

  • Standing up for those who are in the right and removing our protection from those who oppress their people, even though it may cost us.
  • Renouncing aggression (a.k.a. "pre-emptive strikes").
  • Ending torture and other inhumane penal practices worldwide.
  • Embracing a “seamless garment” approach to reverencing life: reduce abortion, end capital punishment and address genocide wherever it occurs.
  • Establishing humane and comprehensive immigration policies.
  • Working to ensure that children have enough to eat and access to healthcare everywhere on the planet.
  • Reversing climate change and creating alternative ways to power our manufacturing, our transport and our domestic life.
  • Supporting human rights, including those of children, women, minorities and those with disabilities.
  • Acting to prevent violence within families, in schools and public places and between groups in society.

Regarding the last of these: World Council of Churches declared the ten years just ended the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOVe); the initiative has become a global movement that strives to strengthen existing efforts and networks for overcoming violence, as well as inspire the creation of new ones. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the U.S. committee of this initiative.) The DOVe adopted, as one of five overarching goals, the following: "Challenging the churches to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence; to relinquish any theological justification of violence; and to affirm anew the spirituality of reconciliation and active nonviolence." (Other areas of of the committee's concern include nuclear proliferation, domestic violence and child abuse, guns and gang violence and institutionalized violence based on gender, race or economic status.)

At one of the U.S. Committee's meetings in Washington, DC, during a discussion of the technique called “SWOT” (an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, used by many businesses and nongovernmental groups), I urged the group not to lose sight of Him who taught us that it is in our weakness that our strength lies. “He who will be first, must put himself last.” Weakness as an integral part of our American national identity would be a hard sell these days, but the idea has considerable merit, nonetheless.

The task is daunting, because those who question are often unpopular (those who preach even more so), and peace groups are almost never well-funded. But commentator and author Bill Moyers recently quoted a poem by Marge Piercy that contained these lines:

What can they do to you?
Whatever they want...
How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.
But two people…can keep each other
sane, can give support…
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play…start
an organization. With six
you can... hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.
It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more. 

(I will write more on the DOVe work in a later post.)

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