"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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org