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Pacem in Terra

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"They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."--Old Testament; Isaiah 2:4.

"A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all."

Tacitus (c. 55c. 120), Roman historian. The Histories, book 1, section 28, on the assassination of Emperor Galba.

I will be the first to admit that the title of this article is not original. It happens to be the title of Pope John XXIII's May 1963 encyclical. This title encompasses both a personal desire, and a prayer for all of humanity. It is time to move these words beyond simple honest desire, past devout and hopeful prayer, and into the realm of reality.

"Pacem in Terra" in Latin means quite simply, "Peace on Earth." It is such a simple phrase, so consciously but conditionally desired by almost everyone on our planet that, if all of humanity could agree in even a single category of what it was we meant by the phrase, I believe it would cause a celebration of thanksgiving--in the spiritual sense of that term--unequalled in the history of our planet.

This article was inspired by Margaret Bassett's article, "Speaking of the Unspeakable," published here at on January 2, 2010. It is, in her words, an overview, not a review, of one of the more disturbing books in recent memory, James W. Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters. In the midst of her article, Margaret requested "help from this venue"[because] now I realize stories bring peace."

Ms. Bassett, between bouts with back spasms, I will give it my best shot.

As I have stated before, I suffer from bipolar disorder. If ever there were an example of "a house divided against itself," bipolar disorder is it. Mood swings--which in my case go from gently rolling, barely perceptible manic hills to the bottom of a depressed, hellish abyss--color your world view, and your actions involving others, in ways that even you yourself never fully understand.

This is especially true when you have the form of bipolar disorder that I have, because there are no obvious, grandiose actions or gestures when you are in the manic part of the cycle, of the sort experienced when you have type I bipolar disorder. Type II (hypomania) and type III (cyclothymia) bipolar disorder are for this reason very difficult to diagnose and treat, because your often self-imposed "exile" from the world gives friends and family when you are out of sorts, offers others very little chance to notice that there is something wrong with you.

Point in fact, it is difficult for even the professionals to diagnose you. This is because in these less pronounced forms of bipolar disorder, the manic episodes might appear to be nothing more than a moment of joy or over-enthusiasm on the part of the person suffering from the disorder.

One of the most distinct and consistent points of all mental illness, is the selfishness and self-centeredness that the mentally ill exhibit, especially when they are in the depths of their disease. I discussed this at length in my November 10, 2009 article for, "Social Capitalism."

As I was reading Mr. Douglass' book--in particular his discussion of the October, 1962, Cuban Missile Crisis--I was especially struck by the selfishness and self-centeredness of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff during that crisis, primarily Air Force Chief of Staff, General Curtis Le May. They were arguing for the invasion of Cuba, as well as preparations for an American first strike against the Soviet Union. The Joint Chiefs assumed (wrongly) that there were no nuclear warheads in Cuba, the United States could destroy the black beast of Russian Bolshevism with minimal American casualties (a mere 10,000,000 dead at most), and erase the threat of Communism forever.

Note there was no consideration of NATO military or civilian casualties, or those of the people of the Soviet Union and its allies, in the war that was certain to ensue. The Joint Chiefs also assumed that there were no warheads for the MRBM's and IRBM's deployed in Cuba--an assumption that history would prove false--so that we were safe from those Cuban based missiles.

So, we must ask ourselves, were the Joint Chiefs and all of the others who were working so hard to start the Third World War over Cuba mentally ill, or were they simply filled with hubris: the arrogant pride that is the traditional gift of the gods to individuals who have obtained high position, but whom the gods now wish to pull down? And even more importantly, is there a difference?

Not much.

There is a mindset among military and naval leaders that makes them very goal or objective oriented. This can lead at times to a type of myopia in their situational awareness that fighter pilots call "target fixation." They become so obsessed with their objective or target; they fail to notice the enemy aircraft sneaking up on them from the rear.

In psychiatry this condition is sometimes called monomania. This mindset led to the bloody defeat of Burnside's Federals at the Battle of Fredericksburg, and Lee's Confederates at the Battle of Gettysburg. It caused 600,000 British casualties in the twenty weeks of the Battle of the Somme during World War I, and it destroyed the cream of the German panzer forces at Kursk in World War II.

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Richard Girard is a polymath and autodidact whose greatest desire in life is to be his generations' Thomas Paine. He is an FDR Democrat, which probably puts him with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the current political spectrum. His answer to (more...)

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