Friday, February 09, 2007

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President:

In some way, I almost feel I should thank you. They say that nothing worth achieving comes easily, and you sure are putting up plenty of obstacles on the world’s path towards peace, compassion, and justice. There’s some comfort in knowing that once this vision is realized, it’ll have staying power because we had to go through so much to get there.

After September 11, I felt the profound potential of that moment—a time unlike any other in the history of humanity, when the entire world stood by this country’s side, consoling us as a dear friend would stand graveside while we mourned a beloved parent. But instead of extending the compassionate possibilities of that sacred moment, you pushed our dear friends into the dirt, spit in their faces, and told them that if they didn’t join us in kicking the shit out of someone—anyone—they might as well have murdered our loved ones themselves.

Thanks to you, humanity must now take the long way around in our evolution as a species. The very, very long way around. And it gets longer each day we remain in Iraq, each time you beat the drums of war at Iran and Syria, each time you wave the flag of “terrorism” to justify shredding the Constitution you have sworn to uphold—a victory this country’s enemies could not possibly accomplish as thoroughly and efficiently as the victory you yourself are handing them.

Have you no eyes to see, Mr. President? No ears to hear the cries of the people you were elected to serve? No humility to conceive that your plans might be failing? I simply cannot understand your unflagging bravado in the face of overwhelming evidence that your policies are leading to increasing misery, both at home and abroad. Even Jesus expressed uncertainty about his path—and in his case, the only life he was risking, the only sacrifice he was asking, was his own. Not thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians sent to senseless deaths. Are you more sure of yourself than even Jesus was? Can your arrogance extend that far?

But I’m a hopeful person, Mr. President. I believe it isn’t too late for this country or for this world. No, nothing worth achieving comes easily. You’re making us work hard for a world based in love rather than fear, lived in connection rather than isolation, and embraced in its beautiful fullness rather than sliced into bland uniformity.

Ever since this war started, I haven’t been able to stomach “fighting back” in protest. Peace can’t come about through the language of war, just as you can’t “defend freedom” by trying to silence your critics. So whenever people gather to speak out against the war, I don’t shout in anger. Instead, I hand out peace haiku: 17-syllable reminders that our common humanity is the best long-term defense against our common destruction. Here are a few of my favorites:

Supporting the troops
Means bringing them back alive,
Not in body bags.

History records
The art as well as the war –
These lines, my small peace.

There’s no joy in death,
Whatever the corpses’ names –
I name them Human.

Lies, lies, and more lies –
Have you no shame, Mr. Bush?
At long last, no shame?
It’s your move, Mr. President. Will you use your power to move this world closer to justice and peace? Or will your hubris continue placing obstructions in our way? I urge you to choose wisely.

In peace,

[Tip of the hat to Michael Franti and Spearhead, whose President's Day letter-writing contest initiated this piece.]


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