• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Holiday Season, 2006

Peace on Earth. Good will to all.
Christmas Blessing

In 1956, nine years into the Cold War, President Dwight Eisenhower launched a cultural exchange program with the Soviet Union. His goal was to forge a bond of understanding with America’s enemy.

Eisenhower was no Neville Chamberlain, misguidedly attempting to appease a voracious enemy. As Supreme Allied Commander leading the free world to victory against Hitler, Eisenhower understood both the reality of evil and the horrific human cost of Chamberlain’s naivety.

Eisenhower did not reach out to the Soviet Union to appease them. He reached out so that America could better understand them and they could better understand us. His hope was that if we understood each other better the distrust between us might dissolve away, allowing us to discover that under the skin we are all the same.

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The holiday seasons are a time for being with family and loved ones. This year, like last year and the year before and the year before that, there are too many empty chairs around America’s tables, too many empty chairs around the tables of the Iraqis, and the Israelis, and the Palestinians, and the Lebanese, and the 250,000 victims of genocide in Darfur.

The holiday season may be a time to celebrate with our families but it is also a time to reflect on man’s inhumanity to man. The world is still at war 2,000 years after the birth of the Christians’ Prince of Peace.

What do we want to do about it? We, the people. It’s our country. It’s our ability to influence the world. The founders gave this to us with the hope that we could secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity as they they had done for us.

What do we, the people, want to do about it? Not the politicians. Not the generals. But us. We, the people.

One of the messages I read in the recent elections is that we’re more than ready to take up the question. It seems to me that we, the people, are ready for bold new ideas about how to get along in a globalized world.

The bold new idea we need is 2,000 years old. We all know it. It forms the very core of our belief systems. During the 1,000 years centered around the lives of Hillel and Jesus, the simple truth was discovered and rediscovered throughout the Middle East, India and Asia by people like the Buddha, Confucius, Hillel, Jesus and Mohammed.

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The Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Hillel that a pagan came to him and sarcastically said: “Jew. Teach me your entire Torah while I stand on one foot.” Hillel is said to have replied to him “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah. The remainder is but commentary. Go learn it.”

About a hundred years later, Paul states the same bold new idea: “Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. … Treat everyone with equal kindness. … Never repay evil with evil but let everyone see that you are interested only in the highest ideals. Do all you can to live at peace with everyone. Never try to get revenge; leave that, my friends, to God’s anger. … If your enemy is hungry, you should give him food, and if he is thirsty, let him drink.”

Islam recognizes this same bold new idea. In the Hadith it is written “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Indeed, according to religious scholar Karen Armstrong, the basic message of the Qur’an is one of compassion.

So does Hinduism: “One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.”

And Confucianism: “Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.”

Even the Yorubas of Nigeria: “One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.”

The Golden Rule was discovered by sages during times of war and violence, during times when the old values were breaking down. It sought to solve the challenge of controlling aggressive behavior by emphasizing our human connectedness, the compassion we have for one another.

Two thousand years after Jesus and twelve hundred years after Mohammed, in another period of war and violence, a great American President rediscovered the same basic truth.

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which is the high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause be a just one.

Abraham Lincoln

 

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If we, the people, are to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, our objective must be nothing less than to live by our ideals. For without liberty for all, there can be liberty for none. It’s the Golden Rule all over again.

As Eisenhower understood 50 years ago, cultural understanding is the starting point. We must all learn each other’s cultures; learning what each loves and what each hates.

As we learn about each other, we will get beyond seeing our enemy as an icon of evil. As we learn about each other, we will begin to see into the heart of our enemy. As we learn about each other, we will discover our common oneness. As we learn about each other, our enemy will become our friend.

There are already many stories of our common oneness, and of enemies becoming friends.

There is the story of Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam, an Israeli community in which Jews and Moslems live in peace.

There is the story of the Compassionate Listening Project, so successful in opening the hearts of Israelis and Palestinians to each other and allowing healing to take place

There is last week’s story at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where Muslims and Jews gathered together to commemorate Jewish suffering under the Nazis.

There is Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, showing us the human side of our enemy, allowing us to share in their loves and hopes and dreams, in the desperate reality of their situation, in their brutality, and in their compassion. We and the Japanese have now been friends for 50 years.

 

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We cannot know what events outside our control will bring.

But we can choose how we will act.

Let us always act for peace.

Let us always seek out opportunities for increasing human understanding, empathy and compassion.

Let us continue to oppose the forces that divide us, always doing so with understanding, empathy and compassion.

Let Freedom Ring.

Copyright © 2006. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.

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