by Steve Bhaerman
"There are no sides, only angles -- and when we view things from the right angle, it's obvious we're all on the same side."
-- Swami Beyondananda
The three peoples of the Ten Commandments are in one holy hell of a mess.
At a time when we should be mobilizing the wisdom and reverence we share to cultivate miracles, we seem to be creating anti-miracles instead. Last week, an Israeli air strike killed and wounded young children in Qana, the Lebanese village where Jesus was said to have performed his first miracle by turning water into wine. Maybe the Dalai Lama was right when he reportedly joked that if we humans destroy ourselves, that would finally create the peace on earth we've longed for.
The discourse has reached a new low as the predictable rationalizations come from both sides: "Look what they are doing to us!" and "We have no choice -- they MADE us do it!" From one side, I have received devastating photos of dead children (occasionally accompanied by a toxic anti-semitic screed). From the other comes the "logical" rationalization, "If the Arabs lay down their weapons, there'll be no more war. If the Israelis lay down theirs, there'll be no more Israel."
"The Arabs don't care about their children! They purposely put them in harm's way!" is the Israeli war cry. The Arabs, they tell us, celebrate when an Israeli child is killed. The Jews, on the other hand, are sad when they have to kill Lebanese children. Well, guess what? Those kids are just as dead regardless of the intention. And any time people say "we had no choice," that is already wrong. It is a failure of imagination, and a triumph of fear. It may be a reassuring rationalization inside the state of Israel or even the Jewish community at large, but outside those circles, it's transparent as hell.
Meanwhile, in the other so-called "religious" camp, we have a scorpionic culture where revenge itself is a way of life and people don't seem to mind stinging themselves to death. After a century that produced Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama as examples for how to "overgrow" oppression, the best these people can do is blow themselves and innocent civilians up? The Arab world has never done a thing for the Palestinians except set them up as patsies in their oxymoronic "holy war" against Israel.
The problem is, this is a tribal conflict, and tribal conflicts never really end, at least not through war. The only way they end is through an upwelling of moral authority from one side or the other or both which say "enough killing and enough dying, there must be another way." Sadly, there doesn't yet seem to have been enough killing or enough dying.
The other factor -- the real elephant in the living room here -- is that there is no congruent worldwide authority to stop the fighting and make it stick, and turn the tide toward building the infrastructure of peace. The United States' interest in the region is purely imperialistic, and this is apparent to just about everyone. Given the Iraqi Horror Picture Show -- or what Jon Stewart calls "Mess-opotamia" -- we have zero moral authority in the Arab world or for that matter, in any world. And while we excuse and justify everything Israel does in its "defense" (emboldening the militarists there, as here) our policy toward the Arabs -- as witnessed by the civilian death toll since we took Iraq out of the frying pan and tossed it into the fire -- seems to be "control burn genocide."
As for the rest of us -- those who understand the definition of insanity as "continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results" -- what do we do? How do we handle the fear-filled positionality of those trapped on both sides of the issue? Is there a way we can change the level of discourse and help turn a tragic disaster into a worldwide learning opportunity?
The One Suggestion: We're All In It Together
We've had thousands of years to "live by" the Ten Commandments, and looking at history we'd have to sadly conclude that either those Commandments haven't done the job, or we haven't. Maybe the whole idea of "commandments" just engenders resistance. Or maybe ten are just too many of 'em. Maybe a whole new approach is in order, like maybe ... One Suggestion.
Actually, there has been one suggestion throughout history that has been largely ignored: Treat others as you would choose to be treated. When you take every religious path from African Traditional to Zoroastroanism, all of them have the same notion at their root -- some version of the Golden Rule. One major problem with the invocation to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is that most of us have learned from the cultural "field" to NOT love ourselves, but that is a longer conversation.
The Swami has said there are two kinds of people in the world -- the kind of people who divide people into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't. At the risk of sounding like the former, I suggest there are two competing worldviews that are rapidly bringing the conversation to a head: