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Getting Along

August 5, 2010
Getting Along

(First appeared in "Business Law Today," Jan/Feb 2010)

Why can’t we live and let live? If humankind is unable to resolve disputes without killing and fighting, we need to go back up into the trees. Even then, people would probably be throwing bananas at each other.

True, war is a diversion from such problems as oil spills, hangnails, divorce, and taxes, but is it the best answer we can come up with to solve differences between nations? What causes us to rush in where angels fear to tread? Could it be…fear itself?

It’s hard to admit in the Land of the Brave that we are afraid, but we are. We fear terrorists. We fear strangers when we see them in our neighborhoods. Some of us feel a touch of uneasiness when we see people wearing strange clothes, odd haircuts, crazed shoes, facial piercings, tattoos. And don’t some bumper stickers make you wonder if the driver of that vehicle is certifiably sane?

And then there are guns: handguns, shotguns, rifles, automatics. Our country is awash in guns. We worry about the wrong people having guns, or that one of us who keeps a gun might shoot a friend, family member, neighbor, or the family pet by mistake.

Many of us fear that some public official or undercover agent might decide we are a threat to national security, and make us eat our habeas corpus. We fear we’ll let slip something on the Internet that will put us on some list. We nervously watch the policeman as he walks towards our car, wondering why he has stopped us. Is it for speeding? For making a rolling stop? For fiddling with the radio? For wearing our hair too long?

We ensconce ourselves in gated, guarded communities, and darken the windows of our cars and trucks. We worry about what others quote us as saying, and the opinions we submit to our local newspapers. We wonder if our cell phones and other toys are bugged, and worry that our bumper stickers might provoke some armed maniac into road rage.

The more frightened we are, the more divided we become. We have watched too many slaughter movies, read too many books about vengeful hatred and easy killing, and have lost our faith in goodness and mercy. We think strength and power are the answers to everything. We yearn for more soldiers, more police, more border guards, more prisons. Armed marshals now fly the friendly skies with us, and pity the poor klutz who stays in the restroom too long, or leans over to tie his shoelaces.

Recently, however, an international development suggests we just might be capable of finding a way out of the volcanic clouds of fear and suspicion, and into the sunlight: The United States and Russia signed a treaty to reduce our respective nuclear stockpiles by a little. The reduction is relatively small, mind you, since Monaco or Palau or Samoa might figure out overnight how to draw up plans for a nuclear slingshot or blowgun, and of course then we’d have to unload a truckload or two of bananas on them. To be absolutely certain we are safe.

Will we ever feel safe enough? We need to remember what Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The answer lies in settling disputes nonviolently. It is called diplomacy. Di-plo-ma-cy. Talking through the problem. Our enemy doesn’t want to talk? We talk anyway. We offer incentives and ideas so reasonable they are impossible to ignore. We let the whole world listen. We find common ground. We show how both sides will benefit. How we all will be safer. And happier. We can do it. I know we can. My cartoon shows how it is possible – even at the last moment.

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3 Comments
  1. marilynbob permalink
    August 6, 2010 10:31 am

    We have nothing to fear as long as people like you remind us of diplomacy. It can be done. It can’t be as hard as signing in at the New Yorker.
    Peace!
    Marilyn and Bob

  2. brucekg permalink
    August 6, 2010 2:23 pm

    Great cartoon and wonderfully put words…..we do need to end war by humbly communicating with our fellow human beings around the world.

    As long though as corporations profit from war not much is likely to change. The time is now for the people to demand the conversion of the military industrial complex to sustainable technology production.

  3. rrrrbrrrrt permalink
    August 7, 2010 12:46 pm

    Great cartoon and blog. The perennial dream. And the virtues that seem to be in play . . . rationality, patience, empathy, cooperation, respect for others . . . that’s the dream all right.

    When I was in the fifth grade in the fall of 1941 we were taught how irrational war was. We had a textbook with picture charts that showed how many schools and hospitals and homes and libraries could have been built with the money spent on World War I. Even an inattentive fifth grader couldn’t miss the lesson: War the irrational monster. But by Christmas our country was at war, attacked by Japan. My pre-schooler brother was marching around in short pants with an Army helmet and a wooden rifle and boots. By the next fall my dad was an Army doctor. Our family was moved across country to be near (then) Camp Gordon. Another fall arrived, my older brother was in the Navy. Rationing. Scrap metal drives. Defense bonds and stamps. Blood drives. Victory gardens. U.S.O. War safety posters. War news on the radio.

    Peace? We dream of peace? Just human rationality would do it. But if rationality is required, we fail. War wins. What about the other virtues? Well, good luck.

    Still, the cartoon and the blog capture our familiar dream. The perennial song. They help us keep our hopes up, our faith. We have to keep trying. Well done, W. B. Park..

    rrrrbrrrrt

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