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Abused Detainee's Plea for Peace Ignored

By       Message Kim Carlyle       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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The scene and the story are familiar: a Middle Eastern country occupied by the strongest military force in the world; a middle-of-the-night arrest of a young man by troops unfamiliar with his culture, language, and religion. Very quickly the young man is transported to prison where the guards ridicule him, strip him naked, and torture him. Then they kill him.

The bearded young man in his thirties had been targeted by the sect of his religious tradition that had aligned with the occupying forces. His actions, his speeches, and the crowds that followed him appeared to threaten the old order. Officials of the occupying force acted preemptively to maintain stability and to avert any possible insurrection.

This young man had been regarded as an agitator, perhaps an insurgent. Some might even had called him a terrorist had the term been in vogue twenty centuries ago. His followers called him "rabbi." His message was radical; it was about peace. This young pacifist called for compassion, for forgiveness, for loving one's enemies. He had high regard for the poor, the merciful, the gentle, and the peacemakers.

But his message did not die with him. For almost three hundred years, his followers, although severely persecuted, remained true to his teachings. They were pacifists who preached empathic love, cared for the less fortunate, and were brutally sacrificed for sport. Then, in an amazing turn of events, a leader of warriors, for political reasons, took their banner into battle and then promoted their doctrine. As religion, state, and military quickly became intermingled, the spiritual ideals were compromised and became subservient to the political power structure. While the dissident's followers went from being outcasts to being the establishment, their values largely died.

The teachings were corrupted. Without a clear distinction between church and state, religious scholars would rationalize the use of violence and justify war for political ends. Today, warfare has spun out of control. It's become an integral part of our violent culture. It's our primary instrument of foreign policy. We glorify war and warriors; we demean peacemakers and pacifists.

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But if our country were guided by this bygone agitator's teaching and example, we'd be a whole lot better off. He healed the sick and did not discriminate between rich and poor sick people; he was an equal opportunity health care provider. Following his lead, our country would have universal medical care.

He advised the rich to discard their possessions, to give them to the poor. Heeding his instruction, America would have no super rich. We wouldn't be considering tax breaks for the wealthy. Instead we'd return to the 90% tax rate that the affluent enjoyed in the 1960s. Through social programs and job creation, we'd distribute the wealth equitably and eliminate poverty. Yes, the dissident was a socialist.

He condemned violence, decried vengeance, and advocated forgiveness even after an attack. Love your enemy; turn the other cheek; forgive your brother seventy times seven times. With such a moral principles, the U.S. would not be engaged in trillion dollar wars. We wouldn't have the entire planet divided into military commands. We wouldn't have troops stationed in 156 different countries. And we wouldn't be killing innocent civilians and detaining and torturing young men in their own Middle Eastern countries whose language and culture we don't understand and whose only crime is to challenge the existing order.

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We would, however, have much more money and many more resources for constructive projects, job creation, and tending to the well-being of the planet and its people. (Incidentally, how's the war economy working for you?)

We need this bygone radical's preaching to be born again--and this time, we need make sure it gets practiced. Is there a better time to start than the season of "Peace on Earth"? Think of this dissident's message of peace and compassion when you pass by a homeless person, when your preacher prays for the troops (but ignores the victims of "collateral damage"), or when you are stuck in a traffic jam near the shopping mall.

Yes. It requires a new way of thinking and feeling, and a rejection of things past--a societal "Scrooge moment," if you will. I'd like to hope that humanity is able to, and wants to, evolve morally. John Lennon said, "War is over, if you want it."

But, then, he was killed, too.

--

Kim Carlyle is inspired by our great teachers of compassion and peace including Buddha, Gandhi, King, the Dalai Lama, and, of course, Jesus.

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Kim Carlyle lives off the land and off the grid in the mountains of Western North Carolina with his wife Susan. He is a co-founder and editor of the War Crimes Times.

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