STARTING A WAR IS EASY…

It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passion, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace.

André Gide

Andre Gide (1869-1951) was a French author and winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1947. He was noted for his significant writings about human problems and conditions. It is important to understand that Gide lived in Paris, France, during both World War I and World War II – two of the most horrendous armed conflicts in history to that date. Within this context, I consider his words about war and peace.

I was tempted to restrict my reflection to armed conflict on a national or international level; in other words, keep the focus on organized warfare between civil factions or between nations. In light of the sheer numbers of individual people slain by lone gunmen or other kinds of attacks in recent weeks and months, I choose to widen the scope of my remarks to include this kind of combat.

What struck me most when I read Gide’s words, is that he claims that going to combat is easier than creating a sustained peace. As I look back historically at warfare between nations, I can’t argue his point. In order to maximize the possibility for victory, governments set out to mobilize public opinion, to incite its citizenry to outrage and fury against the identified enemy. This is and was done by manipulating and manufacturing information. Clearly, with a literate citizenry and the mass media tools available, this task is much easier to accomplish today.

Yet, even in western nations of a century ago, the daily newspapers were effective propaganda tools. As a high school History teacher, I recall showing students examples of political caricatures, editorials, government sponsored posters – all published in the newspapers for local consumption. There were drawings of evil monsters in German uniforms raping, pillaging and murdering innocents. These images incited the masses to: enlist in the armed forces, open their billfolds to finance the war and volunteer in other ways to help the war effort. It was easy to hate.

Fast forward to the present day and we see examples of mayhem loosed upon unsuspecting citizens around the world by radicalized terrorists. The response? The War on Terrorism, of course. Government agencies hunt down terrorist leaders and attempt to execute them – with popular support. In these cases, governments don’t need to resort to propaganda, since the horror perpetrated by terrorist acts serves as ample motivation to support government efforts.

For me, the most upsetting violent events happening today are the police shootings of black citizens in the United States and the retaliatory shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. In the past, the killing of black suspects by white police officers have resulted in few prosecutions of the officers involved. Now we are witness to cases where enraged black shooters have killed a number of police.

In both of the cases cited above, the black shooters were former US military personnel. They were trained to kill, served their country in conflict areas overseas, then returned to civilian life. It was very easy to train them to kill efficiently with assault weapons, but what about retraining them to fit peaceably into civilian society at home? Did they receive psychological support and job training? Not likely – that’s too costly. Statistics suggest that visible minorities make up the majority of America’s armed forces, yet very little effort is made to ensure they can re-enter society and be self-sufficient, successful citizens. Instead we have well-trained, ticking time bombs in a society that discriminates against visible minorities and where the procurement of deadly firearms is relatively easy. As Gide states above, preparing citizens for war or violence is easier than training them in the ways of peace.

It may sound like I’m taking America to task. Every country faces this same dilemma. My country, Canada, has radicalized citizens who have perpetrated deadly violence – even in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, in 2015. The terrorist threat is universal. The violence that results from injustice threatens to shred our social fabric beyond repair. This is not an exclusively American problem. The Internet, global satellite telecommunications and social media have made us truly a global village. What happens in Dallas, Minnesota, Paris or Brussels, is of great concern to people around the world.

Humanity has turned warfare into an exact science in many ways. Now it is time to put our collective knowledge and skills to work to turn peacemaking into a fine art. We have the lessons of the past to school us and there are countless people of good will in every country on this planet we all call home. Let us take the longings and dreams of peace from our hearts and minds and make them real. Humanity has proven again and again that there is no problem that can’t be studied and solved. It is really a matter of choice and determination. The ball is in our court.

 

Advertisements

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

19 thoughts on “STARTING A WAR IS EASY…”

  1. Great post, John. I have been chipping away at paragraphs for many days now as it remains available in an open tab – not wanting to skim quickly an important topic so well presented. I tried to “like” the comments as well, but they seem not to be working tonight (or at least not telling me that they are working), so please know that I appreciated the discussion that followed as well, and tried to acknowledge them all.

    I would love to believe your assertion that the ball is in our court, even as I fear that is not so, in America at least. The government elected and appointed following our last election is narrow-minded, capitalist imperialistic, hate-mongering and short-sighted. As long as the rich get richer, all’s well with their world, and Americans don’t seem to be likely to band together to depose them. The administration’s prime directive seems to be to roll back anything and everything that the Obama administration put in place, regardless of merit, never mind how many millions of Americans are crushed economically or die prematurely for lack of adequate health care.

    I would love to blame it ALL on gerrymandering and the Electoral College – since that IS how this horrendous regime came into power — but there are still far too many millions of Americans who refuse to fact check, willing to “wait and see” and “give him a chance” until . . . what?

    ** What WILL it take for millions to back off the idea that the fallacious reports of Hillary’s email sins are justification for the support of the horror that is running things at present?

    ** What WILL it take for them to agree that it is NOT okay to appoint million dollar campaign contributors like DeVoss to vital cabinet positions like Secretary of Education, despite lack of ANY qualifications for the job?

    ** What WILL it take for them to understand that, no matter HOW they feel about legalized abortion, there are far worse horrors that will be visited upon us as the result of voting on that issue alone, and that defunding Planned Parenthood (on which millions of American women depend for well-woman care) is a truly STUPID way to go that will result in millions of unhealthy babies who need health care they won’t be able to afford or obtain?

    I wish I had something to say to counter Teresa’s comments, insisting that there IS still hope for the USA, but I believe it increasingly less every day. I do agree totally with your assertion that it is FAR too easy to foment war than to stand for peace.

    These are very scary times to live within the borders of the United States – and not a whole lot safer for the rest of a world that, like it or not, is at the effect of the actions of America’s impulsive, war-mongering, capitalistic & self-aggrandizing president.

    The world’s best hope now is that those of you in other countries will take what happened here as a warning that you DARE NOT be complacent — that you *must* remain informed about what your politicians are up to, fact checking to be able to identify spin and outright lies, and that you must cast INFORMED votes for politicians who support peaceful coexistence between countries, brave enough to stand up to hate-mongering and threats of reprisal for same.

    A world that doesn’t work for EVERYONE is a world that doesn’t work. Period.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    PS. I am going out of town tomorrow (Sunday) and won’t be available to respond to comments until Thursday night – and I must shut down the computer as soon as I post this comment because I am still not packed for the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Madelyn, thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt insights on this topic. I share your fears – and your disgust. I am a liberal in my views (in the States I’d be a Democrat) and I know that candidates on the right will try to run a Trump-like campaign in our next federal election because it worked. Most people don’t care about checking facts – too lazy. We have lots of people up here who feel angry and disenfranchised and people like Trump are very attractive to them.

      I haven’t seen the voter turnout stats from your presidential election, but I did hear that a lot of voters who were attacked by the Trump campaign didn’t show up to vote. By the way, that’s how Hitler got elected – apathy at the polls.

      Having said all of that, I feel compelled to turn away from skepticism and despair. As a Canadian, I’m fearful of Trump. I feel uneasy about visiting the States right now. Too many extremists feel that bad behavior is ok now with Trump in power. I sincerely hope that voters in the next round of Congressional elections in two years will take Trump’s legislative majority away – at least in the Senate. I choose to live in hope.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I choose to live in hope as well – it’s getting increasingly difficult to do so, however.

        I’m rushing to sprinkle content below on comments I won’t be able to locate “backstage” on my return.
        ~~~~~~~~~~

        I’m out the door until Thurs. (5/4) as soon as I “send.” Tink and I will be leaving for a cabin at a State Park in the hills of Kentucky with my friend Sam, whom I met in Knoxville, TN. when I was a freshman in college and we were both young and beautiful – lol – taking Social Dance because it counted as gym (and neither of us wanted to mess up our GPA’s and figured this would be an easy A).

        We had barely arrived when instructor told us to partner up – for the ENTIRE course. (Hmmmm – so which male can I stand to have pawing me for an entire quarter?) Sam was the only male in the class who was clearly not a jock, so I snapped him up. (I needn’t have worried, the athletes paired off with the cheerleaders) 🙂

        So began a life-long friendship, mostly by phone in the last decade or so – and we are both psyched to spend a few days catching up in person.

        I won’t be back online until Friday late-ish. Sam will be staying with me Thursday nite before driving home (and I have to deal with lease renewals and outside errands during the day).

        I hope your week is equally lovely – DITTO anyone else reading.
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 1 person

          1. It is and we DID, John. It was perfect – time, location, weather, company – everything, really — as if we were in a charmed circle. The cold and rain waited until we got back. 🙂

            Tink will be drafting an article about our little vacation once I have caught up with comments and he has caught up with sleep. He didn’t want to miss anything, and ran around like a maniac. He and Sam are now best buds.
            xx,
            mgh

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Thanks for the welcome back, John, but I wish I could clone myself and be in both places at once!

                Cold and rainy here today too – and Tink can’t understand why he can’t run around outside like he got to while we were away! Weather is supposed to be even worse tomorrow – but I’m trying to console myself that almost anything is better than hot-hot-hot (which will be here all too soon).
                xx,
                mgh

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Poor Tink! We have a Maltese Terrier that belonged to our granddaughter. Lexi named her pup “Princess Cinderella” – she loves the dog but asked us to adopt her because she couldn’t take care of her anymore. Cinderella isn’t happy with the weather either. She is the perfect lap dog and is happiest when she can curl up on top of us and go to sleep. I hate the hot humid weather too – but not as much as I hate the cold and snow! I’ll look forward to Tink’s vacation blog!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Princess Cinderella – what a perfect name for a tiny dog – especially that breed. Adorable.

                    Tink & I will take frigid over hot ANY day – we’ll pile on the sweaters. Neither of us do well in the heat. My brain melts and he can’t pant hard enough – doesn’t even want to play outside for more than a few moments when it’s really hot (even when I take water outside for him).
                    xx,
                    mgh

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. For me, the perfect summer day is sunny and warm (75-80 F) a gentle breeze and no humidity! Don’t get too many of those. Cinderella loves to curl up on the lounge chair on our deck and just soak up the rays!

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am really at a loss of words to adequately state how I feel about the whole issue of guns and killings. John, I think you articulated the problem very well. We saw 2 black men get executed by the police and it went viral. Of course, the shooting of police officers was bound to happen. Its amazing it didn’t happen sooner. I do know that last year 2 radical KKK members (a husband and wife) executed two police officers eating lunch in a restaurant and nobody made a big news splash out of it. So it was happening, but only it was white people doing it. I wonder why there is such a double standard. Guns shoot and maim no matter who is pulling the trigger. It’s all just too awful to comprehend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a topic close to my heart – both because it was the focus on my research and because it brings me to my knees. The issues are complicated. There are those who profit from racial disparities and unrest; their livelihood depends on impoverished and underserved communities. When they fly into these areas, what is achieved? Only they fly out enriched; what about the communities?

    If we are to have true change, it will be grassroots — through the efforts of unsung heroes in the neighborhoods. When I give, I give directly to them — not to any outside group. I agree with your statement about “manipulating and manufacturing information.” A difficult problem can become an impossible problem by manufactured “facts” and there are plenty of false “facts.”

    As you mentioned, it is “time to put our collective knowledge and skills to work to turn peacemaking into a fine art,” and there are many who long to do so. But, getting through the veils of anger and misinformation and prejudices and, and, and….is not easy.

    Those of us with no financial ties, with abundant hope, and with visions of peace need to step forward. For indeed, “the ball is in our court.”

    Thank you for spotlighting this concern.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gwen, you hit the proverbial nail right on the head. The solution is clearly not going to come from the top – from government leaders. It will be the grassroots citizenry that must spearhead the movement for change. I pray that the necessary change won’t bring more bloodshed. I appreciate your visit and your contribution to the discussion, Gwen!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The war machine is a great money maker. The American gun culture will never allow restrictions on guns & ammunitions. I feel,personally, that there’s no hope for the USA.
    Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We surely should be by now, John – but it seems our responses default to confrontation and attack always fall into equal or far greater aggression… 😦

        The opponents of Darwinism seem to have triumphed after all – when it comes to morals and acquisition we seemingly cannot and will not evolve, even on an individual level in some respects. Animal instincts can be mastered if we are intelligent, but more importantly, empathic and compassionate.
        My late husband and I were Friends of a zoo in Kent, UK, where they specialised in breeding Lowland Gorillas. On a hot, busy summer holiday weekend, we walked past the gorilla enclosures where peace and sleepiness reigned, and compared that with very different, noisy, clamouring behaviour on the other side of the fence as parents strove to keep their tempers and over-excited kids under control – no doubt as to which was more ‘civilised’ Great Ape that day, despite their reputation (wrongly applied) for brute strength!
        I’d certainly prefer to have a monkey as an Uncle than a totalitarian despot any day! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for this story, Jan! It certainly does seem that we are a lot less civilized than many in the animal kingdom. We can choose to continue, as we have done in the past, to follow the path to self-destruction, or we can choose a different path.

          Liked by 1 person

I love comments & questions! Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s