Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do We Want to be Noble or Notorious?

In Mario Puzo’s brilliant novel, “The Godfather,” the mafia leaders meet for a critical negotiation to stop the fighting between families and to end the senseless bloodshed. In a room full of the men who wielded the most power a truce was established. Puzo writes, “The other Dons in the room applauded and rose to shake hands with everybody in sight and to congratulate Don Corleone and Don Tattaglia on their new friendship. It was not perhaps the warmest friendship in the world, they would not send each other Christmas gift greetings, but they would not murder each other. That was friendship enough in this world, all that was needed.”

This is in a strange way what international political diplomacy is about. It is sitting down with your enemies and trying to find a way to keep from killing each other. It is setting up rules and codes of conduct and lines that can’t be crossed, as well as giving one another something in return, in order to establish an atmosphere of peaceful tolerance.

It is not bullying the other side. It is not making outrageous threats. It is not spitting in the face of the enemy. It is using intelligent, well thought out agreements that both sides are willing to abide by.

This is what the Obama administration is attempting to do with Iran. We do not own the world. It is the height of ignorance, and honestly, just dull immature thinking, to think we do. We exist in a global village whether we like it or not. And as intelligent people we should be willing to understand the culture, the religion, the politics, and the philosophy of life of other nations, even those we consider enemies. It is lazy indifference and petty arrogance to be disinterested in doing that at a time when the world needs cooperation and a willingness among nations to mutually work together.

We don’t have to all be Christians. We don’t have to all be Muslims. Or Jews. Or any other religion. We don’t all have to be democratic nations or dictatorships or monarchies. It is possible for the nations of the world to be who they choose to be without judgment or coercion to be something else.

But much of the chaos in the world today, especially in the Middle East, is due to this notion that all nations must be one thing, whether it is Western democracy, or Islamic rule, or Jewish control. And a lot of longtime US meddling into other nations in an attempt to overthrow dictatorships and insert democracies which would then be in our interest to boost our way of life has brought us to where we are today.

America doesn’t want to be told by Islamic mullahs how to live our lives and Islamic nations don’t want to be told by American Christian fundamentalists or politicians how to live theirs. There is no reason why all nations can’t tolerate differences and allow one another to pursue their own beliefs and way of life.

Injustice, brutality, cruel acts of inhumanity happen in every single nation on the globe, including ours. We do not have clean hands. We’re not a pure people. Am I glad to live in America? Yes, absolutely. I love my country. I want it to be better. But I’m not naive enough to believe my country is the only right nation in the world and every other nation needs to be like ours. We have a lot to be proud of, but we also have much to be ashamed of.

Conservative politicians these days like to be identified with the Christian faith. And yet it was Jesus who famously said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” Why is that not ever quoted by conservatives today? Why is that not considered a valuable goal of diplomacy? Isn’t the struggle to make peace more worthy than the simple act of war?

It has been said that just two things make a nation famous; it being noble or it being notorious. We have leaders today who still cherish the USA being the first. Why would we then want to follow leaders who are comfortable making us the second?


© 2015 Timothy Moody

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