Friday, February 12, 2010

Goliath's Last Days

The now ubiquitous peace symbol began as part of the nuclear disarmament movement in 1958.  The symbol itself is a combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for Nuclear Disarmament.  Yet, here we are more that 50 years later and further from that desired result than ever.  President Obama even received a preemptive Nobel Peace Prize on a promise to disarm our nuclear arsenal, and yet in his budget he's expanding the program.  Many Americans have sacrificed their freedom in order to bring attention to this issue, or to stop the expansion.  And yet the majority of Americans seem to cling to the idea that this arsenal of evil is somehow keeping them safe. 

In a desolate swamp somewhere between Kissimmee and Melbourne Florida on Hwy 192 is a little white house grandfathered into the Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area.  I lived in this little house for a year, five miles from a paved road, and many more miles away from anything that remotely resembled civilization.  As I soon discovered this tiny refuge was not only home to alligators, snakes a-plenty, wild pigs and amazing bird life, but also some of the most violent and racist men I'd ever met.  There were more guns and other weapons in this tract of swamp land then there were people, and one of these guns, a shotgun, resided next to my bed within easy reach and loaded each night as I went to sleep.  At the time I thought this made me safer from any human predators in the swamp, yet as I reflect on it from a new vantage point I realize it was a false sense of security at best and actually increased the level of danger.  If, for example, one of these two legged swamp rats had come in drunk, but unarmed, I most like would have survived the attack, but the mere presence of the loaded gun could easily change that balance to my loss.  Realistically, is the perp going to stand there and wait for me to fumble in my sleepy daze until I get a good aim?  Even though I was a practised shot and knew my weapon well, I doubt I could have managed to get off a shot coming out of a dead sleep. 

In wee hours of the morning I would wake to feed the animals in my care on the homestead.  In the evening I did likewise, often also taking a walk several miles deeper into the swamp to watch the thousands of resident birds come in to roost.  Never once did I take a gun with me, or any weapon other than Duke, my loyal boxer.  Looking back I recognize that it was at these moments, and not while I slept, that I was the most vunerable to attack.  Life is risky.  Unless your vigilant to a point of constant paranoia, you will on occasion be vunerable.  But there's a better way forward.  When I learned to arm myself with nonviolence, rather than a gun, I began to feel much safer.  I don't put myself into unnecessary risk, but if confronted I know that there is a creative way out for both me and the perpetrator, I just have to be smart enough to find it. 

Our country could have that same enlightened intelligence about securtiy, but so far we don't.  We have amassed a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the planet many times over, and yet this overwhelming threat did not deter the 9/11 attacks.  In fact, for the unfathomable amount of money our country pours into defense, it only took a pair of box cutters costing less than $5 to drop us to our knees.  That alone should be enough for us to stop and rethink our security strategy.  We don't need more bombs and bullets, we need nonviolent conflict management.  We have over 1000 military bases across the world.  In other words, we're attempting to be that ulta vigilant paranoid country I warned you about.  How many foreign military installations are on American soil?  none.  Yet we have the gall to say that people "hate" us because they're jealous of our way of life, that it has nothing to do with the fact that we have a gun to their heads.  So if I'm feeling suspicious of my neighbor, I should be able to train a missile at his bed while he sleeps just in case he wants to attack me while I sleep.  I sure hope he doesn't snore.  It reminds me of the Bugs Bunny cartoon where he and Elmer Fudd are chasing each other back and forth with a larger weapon each time.  But the reality is that the US is so big now, and so complicated that it's the simple things that break us down.  We are the Goliath and David's simple stone is headed our way.  Now we're reduced to checking people's underwear at the airport and doing full body scans.  I try to live as transparent a life as I can, but this is getting ridiculous.  Is this freedom?  Is this peace?  There is a choice.

Just because you live in a neighborhood full of guns doesn't mean that having a gun yourself makes you any safer.  Likewise, just because other countries have nuclear weapons, having more doesn't make us any safer.  One thing that we've been learning since the beginning of unarmed civilian accompaniement in the 80's, is that if you go into a conflict zone armed, even to do peace work, you chances of survival decrease dramatically.  Whereas our people going in unarmed, with clear signs of that being the case, live to do the peace work they set out to do.  This is no longer conjecture, but fact.  Carrying a gun will get you killed.  By building up our military America has made itself the biggest badest target in the world.  It's the same appeal that bringing down Microsoft has to hackers, only in this case the hackers want us dead.  If we were to change our stance and begin talking with our opponents rather than sending lethal drones over sleeping civilians in the night, creating horror and more hatred, we might save ourselves the big fall that every Goliath ultimately meets.  If we're educating and feeding the world, rather than enslaving it and all it's resources, we would have far fewer David's with slingshots at the ready. 

I realize that we're a long way from demilitarizing this country, which is my ultimate wish.  But if we can start somewhere, let's start with the nuclear weapons.  No one should have to live in fear of our country doing this to them.  There have been activists working on this front for many years now.  They need more help.  We need Americans to see these weapons as the ecological and moral calamaties that they are.  We certainly don't need these in our fight against terrorism.  The only other reason we would build them is to sell them, and that's even more morally bankrupt then keeping the stockpile to ourselves.  Right now the media is filled with information about the dangers of nuclear weapons and energy.  It's a good time to educate ourselves and act.  When you're ready here's a good place to start.

Guns are not security - you are your best security.  Be smart, be safe and be nonviolent.  Let's help Goliath be a friend to humanity.

1 comment:

Tom H. Hastings said...

I like what someone once said when asked about nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands: "Nuclear weapons are ALWAYS in the wrong hands." Thanks for the post and art!