With great counsel and great deliberation.

Over at Reality Sandwich, Charles Eisenstein takes on the question of “Bombs, Badguys, and the Brink of Peace.” In his excellent article, he examines why the American public is so unenthusiastic about getting involved in Syria; he answers his own question with “Perhaps what we are weary of is the whole concept of war, the mindset of war, and the worldview underlying the waging of war.”

It would only be about time.

Think about it – our nation was founded in 1776, and since then, only a handful of years – 21, to be precise – have passed that we have not been involved in some bloody conflict or other.

war1

War2

That’s a pretty disgraceful showing for a nation that claims to love peace and freedom.

It can be argued that some of these conflicts were about peace and freedom, and there may even have been long-term historical justification for our involvement in some of them. But there have been far too many that didn’t involve us at all, those for which the only justification seemed to be the desire for lucre on the part of war profiteers.

It’s time we took a good hard look, as a nation, at who is calling to unleash the dogs of war, and why. Frankly, I am tired of seeing our country’s precious resources thrown away on the science of death and destruction, in the name of causes which seem to make no sense to people struggling to find work, to educate their children in substandard schools, or to get decent healthcare.

Geoffrey Chaucer, who lived from 1342 – 1400, wrote some powerful words in his “Tale of Melibee:”

Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven hym audience. “Lordynges,” quod he, “ther is ful many a man that crieth ‘Werre! Werre! that woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynnyng hath so greet an entryng and so large, that every wight may entre whan hym liketh, and lightly fynde werre; but certes what ende that shal therof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse. And therfore, er that any werre bigynne, men moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacion. Up rose then one of these old wise men, and with his hand made a sign that the people should hold themselves still and give him audience. “Lords,” he said, “there are many men who cry ‘War! War!’ who know very little what war amounts to. War at its beginning has so great an entry and so large that every creature may enter when it pleases him, and lightly find war; but surely what end that shall come of it, it is not easy to know. For truly, once that war has begun, there are many children unborn of his mother that shall die young because of this war, or else live in sorrow and die in wretchedness. And therefore, before any war might begin, people must have great counsel and great deliberation.”

Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, “The Tale of Melibee,” §17.

Those who call for war may prate noble ideals and national interests and safety and security, but in the back of their mind they are thinking continued employment, campaign contributions from arms makers and materiel suppliers, advancement of political careers, or direct profits from the sale of implements of destruction. Nobody at this level seems to care about the human cost: the death of innocents, the destruction of property and infrastructure, the oppression of populations, genocides, refugees, pestilences, and the waste of precious resources. All of this is swept under the rug, ignored in the beating of drums and the rattling of sabers and dreams of glory, honor, and riches.

♫ Come and sing a simple song of freedom
Sing it like you’ve never sung before
Let it fill the air
Tell the people everywhere
We, the people here, don’t want a war. ♫

The word of Bobby Darin’s song have never been more appropriate than they are today. American involvement in Syria is overwhelmingly unpopular, with 50% opposed outright to any involvement, and 80% convinced that the president needs congressional approval before moving forward with any entanglement, according to a recent Reuters poll. Yet despite these numbers, the American populace is being systematically ignored by its leadership. How can the people of our country support an executive branch that is so out of tune with their wishes? Well, the simple truth is that they can’t; President Obama’s approval ratings are in freefall.

The people of our nation – the ones living now, and the ones yet to be born – deserve much better than we are offering them. Our economy is a shambles, our healthcare – whose quality is among the best in the world – is essentially unaffordable, and our education system is rotten to its very foundation [1]. Yes, all things are relative: this is not Somalia or Egypt or Albania or Congo, where life is a hell of a lot more difficult and frightening and dangerous, but the fact remains that we have the resources to do a lot better… and we’re not doing it.

I know I speak for a majority of my fellow Americans when I confirm that we are tired of war. We want peace, we want prosperity, we want jobs, we want secure retirements, we want clean water, we want secure mortgages, we want bridges and roads and schools and hospitals and doctors that don’t bankrupt you for a single illness. That’s what we want, and I feel as though our nation is plunging headlong toward a major tipping point. To use a cinematic metaphor, this isn’t as good as it’s going to get, and something’s gotta give.

If our leaders don’t start listening, they will fall. The people still have a vote. But it’s getting dicier than that. Elections only happen on schedule, and the people are getting more and more impatient. I sincerely wonder how long our leaders can keep throwing hot coals upon the heads of the American people before they start a fire that they are unable to put out.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] I’m not counting the army of diligent and hopeful teachers who continue to soldier on in the most adverse of conditions, because they love teaching and love their classes and want to make a difference in their lives; I’m talking about the administrative morass through which they are being asked to slog, starting with the government and oozing down through school boards and school administrations and teachers’ unions who are more concerned with protecting their fiefdoms than they are about really educating kids.

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