Friday, April 25, 2014

When Will They Ever Learn?

"Flowers in the Wilderness"

I was deeply disturbed by two "back-to-back" stories I recently heard on the news. 

The first story reported U.S. troops being sent into Poland and other Eastern European countries for "military exercises" - all this as a response to the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 

Immediately following that story was a report coming out of Tokyo. Led by the Prime Minister of Japan, there is a new social movement aimed at changing the Japanese constitution, declaring that they are no longer a "pacifist" nation. Their "self-defense" army would be transformed into a "belligerent," aggressive military, capable of going to war at any time. 

While I heard these two stories reported together, I literally felt a wave of fear come over me as so many past memories were conjured up. 

As a a child in the 1950's and throughout my life as a young adult, I lived in a world that was always on a "Cold War" alert.  Russia was our  enemy - an "evil empire" who had nuclear capability with  missiles and bombs that could be deployed at any time.  I remember seeing films about mushroom clouds and world-wide destruction. As children we practiced classroom "air raid" drills - a ridiculous procedure of crouching under a classroom desk at the sound of a school siren so that we would be "protected" in the case of a nuclear explosion.

I also grew up believing that Japan was a pacifist nation and had turned away from it's capacity to make war because the people of that nation had learned a harsh lesson about war. Nuclear bombs had been dropped in their cities - millions of people instantly killed - dying horrible deaths.  They wanted no part of war ever again. 

Up until a few months ago, I thought the world  had drastically changed form the world of my youth.   The world threatening "Cold War" had long ago ended. The Soviet Union no longer existed, the Berlin wall had come down.  Russia was our friend and ally. Japan was a nation of Buddhists and lotus blossoms, a highly developed peace-loving people devoting their energy to building new technologies. 

All of a sudden we have troops pitted against the Russians. Japan arms for war, and memories of mushroom clouds and air raid drills once again come back to haunt me.

"Back in the day," we used to sing an old Pete Seeger folk song: "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." Interestingly enough, the song was based on an old Russian folk tune dating back to Cossack army times.  It depicts young soldiers and husbands as beautiful flowers plucked from the earth on the fields of battle, and it laments the fact that no matter how many times the flowers are destroyed,  people just never seem to learn the lessons of war. They just keep coming back for more - plucking away those beautiful flowers.

When will they ever learn?
Oh, when will hey ever learn?

Human beings have such awesome potential to create beauty, to live with compassion, kindness and generosity of heart.  We are after all, a dynamic and complex web of relationship. The only borders between us are artificial. There are no foreigners. And what we do to others, we do to our selves.

 Human beings also have this innate capacity to destroy one another. We are prone to selfishness and  violence, oppression and making war. And we keep repeating the same mistakes no matter how much they have hurt us in the past. 

Our better angels are always wresting with our lesser selves. 

It's Spring in the wilderness - the Easter Season. Yesterday I walked on the desert floor and my senses were flooded with the sights and fragrances of wild flowers growing everywhere in their full spring-time bloom.

It felt as if the universe was making an announcement: "The flowers haven't been plucked up and thrown away. Life springs up even in the driest places - out of rocks and bone dry sand. In the end, love will win day and life will have the final say."


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