Published on Thursday, April 11, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
Taking A Stand
by Linda O'Brien
"You see, I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful."
- from a poem by N. Scott Momaday
This past week in D.C., the cherry blossom season peaked and is slowly ending. Everywhere, branches raise swaying limbs coated tip to trunk with creamy blossoms. This is what is real: the single perfect pink-white cluster springing directly from the dark raw silk trunk of the cherry tree, just because. Beauty, wherever we can find it, for the moment that it's granted.
Images from here, from there: In Bethlehem, a woman weeping because the wounded man who sheltered in her home for a night, and immediately became her family, bled to death on her kitchen floor. Ambulances are not allowed in Sharon's Operation Enduring Freedom. In Washington, asked about the crisis in the Middle East and the rising price of oil, the White House said it sure showed the Senate needs to sign the president's energy plan.
We stand in good relation to all that is beautiful.
Our "war on terrorism," for example. What we find beautiful includes Lady Liberty lifting her torch for immigrants, for the poor and the oppressed. Yet the war has put a blanket over the torch with secret imprisonments, selective rights for people on trial, and massive police roundups of immigrants. What we find beautiful is the hope that America will be the voice for human rights everywhere. Yet we're aligning with whoever will aid the "war," regardless of their rights abuses, and the administration urges the Voice of America (the very voice of the land that symbolizes freedom to the world) to censor its broadcasts.
Isn't all the carnage that is happening in the world supposed to be for the sake of preserving what we love? These wars we are fighting--Bush's war, Sharon's war with our money and weapons--are too crude and cruel and indiscriminate for that. They're simply about killing "them" so that more of "us" might live.
This is what is real: individuals loving their lives. That is all that we have. It's fragile enough, scarce enough, without wars we don't believe in.
There is a huge divide between the government's reality and our own. It exists to perpetuate itself and its own aims. But we can separate from it philosophically, spiritually, and take a stand. "You see, I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful" isn't a boast. It's an act of will, respect, and self-restraint in order that there will be beauty--reasons to live.
It seems as if those leading us into insanity have all the power. Our dissent is "disappeared" from the mainstream media, Congress is nearly silent, and Bush takes actions without constitutional authority at every opportunity. But the world changes when beliefs change, regardless of the wishes of governments. This time it may not take massive marches, or riots. Thoughts are changing; hearts are changing, quietly, about our relation to the earth, to things and to people. Jim Hightower's Rolling Thunder movement is one that seeks to "take back the world." The passionate, thoughtful words of many, many people on Internet sites make it clear there's something like a populist wildfire occurring in this country. And around the world, in the midst of soldiers and demonstrators, there are thousands of peace activists. There's a sense that the governments of the world, with their love of wars and weapons, are on a separate evolutionary track from the people of the planet.
Is it possible in this age for us to control events? It must be. The conduct of war involves the destruction of everything that means life for the "enemy" and, utterly without intending it, for ourselves.
The people taking a separate path are like individually rooted leaves of grass. We have the whole force of the earth with us. We are more powerful than we know.
I propose a populist pledge. "To all the people of the world (with your innocent children, your beloved hills and valleys, your joyful ceremonies, your blossoms and branches, your cherished dreams and memories): 'I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful." Including you.
Linda O'Brien lives in Bethesda, MD and is a freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com