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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Peace, a meditation in 4 parts: One, Idealism vs. Ideologies

If you've ever participated in an anti-war protest like the one that took place in Chicago's loop on Saturday, you can't help but feel a creeping sense of disappointment. Disappointment that almost 5 years on the message isn't reaching more people; disappointment that bigger things aren't being accomplished; disappointment that too many seem concerned with furthering their narrow organizational goals rather than building a true movement for peace.

It wasn't all bad. Thousands of ordinary folks did rally from around the Midwest to voice their opposition to the Iraq War and its many harmful repercussions. Speeches were made; most with moving and coherent arguments for making better use of the billions of dollars spent on this foreign policy sinkhole. At the end of the day, however, everyone went their separate ways and the course of the war proceeds apace.

Polls show a large majority of Americans are now against our president's Middle Eastern military adventure, but that doesn't translate into a social movement strong enough to influence the country's foreign and domestic policies. There's no coherent vision of a way forward coming from the Left, and that's why so many have meekly taken the hand of our current administration, which is leading us all down a very dark path.

Most Americans still view the peace movement with a mixture of suspicion and cynicism. They suspect that the protest is being driven by the same lefty fringe elements who have always staked a claim to its leadership. They're dubious whether the marches are effective, or are merely empty gestures best left to youth and stuck-in-the-60s radicals. For the idea of Peace to catch fire in the popular imagination, we have to frame the debate in a completely new way — casting aside the whithered ideologies of the past and reviving the ideals that have laid dormant too long in our collective consciousness.

We are hampered by a creative laziness that too easily falls back on old models of resistance, and closes itself off from the full range of new possibilities for change. Our times call for openness; the recapturing of an innocence that allows us to see the world and our actions in new contexts. Only by breaking free of the cages we've built around our imaginations can we reach our full potential.

Idealism is often viewed with skepticism in our society, which confuses principled opposition with naivité. We use the slippery slope of exceptions to damn our hope of better days. Rather than trusting in and appealing to the better natures of the broad majority, we condemn and elevate the example of the most selfish and narrowly motivated.

The only thing we fear more than failure is uncertainty, and many times that causes us to clasp on to the first sure sounding solution offered us. Ambiguity marks this moment in human history, and rather than being cowered into shadowy corners of regressive ideas, we need to take advantage of the possibility for true creativity that comes with it.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from history, but true art lies in mixing those old forms with innovative techniques. It's a challenge that we all must actively take up, and stop waiting passively for the answers to drop deus-ex-machina like from heaven.

To be continued ...

Peace, perfect peace
by Toots and the Maytals

Peace, perfect peace
I cry for peace in this neighborhood
Oh, love, perfect love
I beg you for love in this neighborhood

No water can cool this fire,
Only the Lord can save us
I cry for peace in this neighborhood

I take a look inside and this is what I see
We need more love, we need more love in this community
Oh, I take a look inside and this is what I see
We need more love, we need more love in this community

Peace, perfect peace
I cry for peace in this neighborhood
Oh, love, perfect love
I cry for love in this neighborhood

No water can cool this fire
Only the Lord can save us
I cry for peace in this neighborhood

I take a look inside and this is what I see
Faith can move mountains, only love can set us free
I take a look inside and this is what I see
We need more love, we need more love in this community

Peace, perfect peace
I cried for peace in this neighborhood
Oh, love, oh, love, perfect love
I cried for love in this neighborhood
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