Monday, May 27, 2013

A Memorial Day Message for Peace and Gratitude


            This has been an odd Memorial Day weekend for me.   The weather here in the D.C. area has been absolutely poifect.  But for nearly the entire time, I’ve been cooped up in my house working hard on the computer – it might as well have been mid-January.

            The time drain this weekend has been, to be candid, a labor of love.  I’ve put the “finishing touches” on draft number N+1 of the manuscript for my new book.   It’s a “non-fiction book about God.”  How’s that for an oxymoron, my skeptical friends?   Every time I finish a draft, I’m convinced that it’s getting better and better.  But every time I begin working on the next draft, I’m amazed at just how many additional edits I feel compelled to make.  Do you remember that scene from Amadeus when the king tells Mozart that his composition has too many notes, and Mozart retorts that in fact it had just the right number?  All I can say is that it must be nice to be so talented that you feel supremely confident in the quality of your art.   For me, few things are as humbling as the writing process – but since I can’t compose music, paint, or shoot a jump shot … let’s just say that I’m looking forward to working on draft N+2.

            While I’ve been preoccupied with metaphysics and theology, I hope you all have been thinking a bit about the reason why Americans were given this day off.  It’s a day to remember our fallen warriors -- and all the other warriors who gave up their arms, legs, or psychic health in service to their country.  I may not always agree with every war my country enters, but we always need to admire the courage and dedication of the troops who risk everything so that armchair folks like me can philosophize with security.  Thanks to all of you who have served in that capacity, or helped out anyone who has.  And a special thanks to those who have lost your loved ones – you, too, are in our thoughts.

            My own work when it comes to the topic of armed conflict is more in the Prevention Department than in the Winning Department.  There is not much we civilians can do for the war effort, but we at least can devote a lot of time to the fight for peace.  As a Middle East peace activist, I was thrilled to see that Secretary of State Kerry is apparently getting serious about his goal of putting the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks at the top of his agenda.  How serious?  He has now announced a $4 billion economic development plan for the West Bank.   It alone won’t produce peace, but I cannot think of a better start.   

            The plan, according to Kerry, could reduce unemployment in the West Bank by two-thirds.  Who is to say if that’s overly optimistic, but this much I think we can say: the more that the conditions on the ground have kept Palestinians out of the labor force, the easier it has been for extremists to fan the flames of Israel-hatred.  Given that the GDP of the Palestinian territories together add up to only $4 billion, I have to think that Kerry’s proposal would provide a huge economic boost to the West Bank.   

            It is easy to say that peace will never come to that region -- that no less than poverty, war between the Jews and the Arabs “will always be with us.”  But I’m not that pessimistic, and you shouldn’t be either.  We need to build up the economy of the Palestinian territories, support NGOs whose goal is to build trust between the Israeli and Arab streets, and periodically bring the leaders to the negotiating table.  And we need to remember that simply because no end-stage agreement has been reached, that doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made.  Perhaps, under Kerry’s leadership, we might just see such progress during the next four years.

            On a day like today, we owe it to our troops to support them not only with gratitude but with prayers and hard work.  So let’s pray and work for peace, so they don’t have to fight so many wars.  

And please, let’s make sure that these heroes get the mental health support and the other vital services that they deserve.  It’s great to honor them when they’re dead, but it’s high time that we stepped up to the plate when they’re alive.  

From a humbled non-veteran to all you heroes and your families, thanks again on behalf of the Empathic Rationalist.

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