by Joe Scarry
Sometimes the stars align, and you see the world in a new way. Here’s how it happened for me.
First, as I started to describe recently, an initiative has been begun to propagate the idea that “war can be abolished.” This is not to deny that people disagree about things, but only to say that no thinking person believes, anymore, that the desired way to settle disagreements is through force. (See WorldBeyondWar.org) Part of this initiative involves getting into the nitty-gritty problems, particularly the fact that nations tend to cling to the idea that fighting is “the” way for them, in the final analysis, to settle disputes; and the problem that, “sure, I want to renounce war — but it’s the other guy (group, nation, whatever) that’s the problem!”
Second, I’ve been deeply impressed by the work of Mohamed ElBaradei in working against nuclear proliferation, as described in his book, The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.Through this book, I have been schooled by ElBaradei in the little-discussed fundamentals of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, in particular, that the NPT — and all the prevention of newweapons acquisition that it is aimed at — is predicated on the elimination of nuclear weapons by the existing nuclear “haves”!
Third, I have been alerted to developments in Japan by my friend and colleague, the scholar and antiwar activist Kazashi Nobuo. In a Skype call just a few weeks ago, Kazashi urged me to learn more about thetrends in Japan that may lead it away from its “peace constitution,” and to tell others.
Finally, I attended a series of excellent workshops at this year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC, just last week. One was a session on“Costs, Dangersand Alternatives: Military and Economic Competition in Asia and the Pacific” led by Mark Harrison, Director of the Peace with Justice Program/UMC-GBCS, Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee, Chloe Schwabe, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, and Yuichi Moroi, Temple University. I was struck when Prof. Moroi projected the actual words of Article 9 of the Japanese constitution on the screen:
The combination of all these influences made me see the words of the Japanese constitution in a new way. It suddenly occurred to me that the point of Article 9 has not been what it means for Japan, but what it means for the rest of us. Article 9 is an invitation — a creator of a special space— in which we have the opportunity to consider what we want our constitution to say. Do we ignore Article 9, and just carry on with business as usual? Or do we rejoice in the space that Article 9 has created to allow us to consider renouncing the use of force as well?
I’ve posted here some pictures from Japan, reflecting various dimensions of the movement there to resist the impulse to war, as a reminder that Article 9 is not just a few words in a document. It stands for an enormous amount of effort that people in Japan have invested over decades to emphasize their commitment to renouncing war and stopping the nuclear threat. (Have we been paying attention?)
I fear that we have not been good stewards of the opportunity that Article 9 has provided to us. Instead of taking that small beginning and making something glorious out of it, we have squandered it through inaction. I can’t help think of the “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30):
We have had a window of opportunity — nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imagined we were supposed to do?
Whatever we have imagined, what we have done is . . . not much. And so . . . are we any better than the “wicked and slothful” servant?
We have not taken this parable to heart in anything even resembling the seriousness intended. I can’t help thinking that we have not had the courage to imagine that we are called to be stewards of the fate of the earth. I regret that in the past I myself have, too often, heard this parable in the most literal and, frankly, trivial way.
But all that’s changed. I’m tempted to be angry, like the master in the parable. However, I realize that what I am called to do is to try to be “good and faithful” in response to the opportunities that do still exist, and to convince others to do so, too. (The alternative — the darkness — is not pretty.)
On November 16, 2014, many Christian denominations (such as the ELCA) that follow the common lectionary will feature the Parable of the Talents as the Gospel reading at their Sunday services. I wonder how many ministers will be preaching on the 21st century variant of this story of wasted opportunity and the darkness that ensues.
It’s time for us to get honest about the true costs of war, including the long term health consequences for people who serve in the military, and the corresponding long-term costs that our society must commit to bear.
Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon – a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War – deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.
FLASHBACK: 2012 protests against NATO in Chicago: As the Obama administration expressed fury at Pakistani resistance to further NATO war operations and excludes Pakistan’s president from the NATO Summit, members of the wider community gathered to memorialize people killed by U.S. airstrikes and drone attacks in Pakistan and in the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as U.S./NATO operations in Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere. Recognizing what veterans on Sunday called “the burden of blood that has stained these medals”, Trinity Church opened its lawn to expressions of grief and remembrance by the entire community.
(See #NATOvictims )