• 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

Memorial Day, 2007

How many times must we tell the tale?
How many times must we fall?

Eric Clapton

This week brought two provocative items across my desk. One was a news report of the recent Pew poll showing that about one in four American Muslims under 30 believe suicide bombing in defense of Islam is justified in at least some circumstances. Another was a mailing I received from the Zionist Organization of America. The envelope read “Negotiating with terrorists … negotiating one’s own demise.”

Hearts are hard. We speak past each other instead of to each other. And people die.

I can imagine circumstances where I would voluntarily give up my life if it could save my family and the people I love. Even as a pacifist, if the only way I could save my family was to commit suicide while taking out their attackers, so be it.

And if terrorists are only using negotiations as a way of achieving an advantage in support of their stated aim to destroy me, then I am absolutely right to refuse to negotiate with them.

But with all due respect to everyone who is trapped inside their hard rigid opinions (myself included), I think the situation is a little deeper. And I’d like to suggest that we owe it to those whose memories we honor today, to take this deeper look.

If I have a seen a little further than my fellow man,
it is because I stand upon the shoulders of giants.

Sir Isaac Newton

Over 300 years ago, Galileo and Newton launched a revolution in mankind’s understanding of the physical world. Their genius was in recognizing that it is not enough to pay attention to how things are. One must also pay attention to how things are changing.

And in the human sphere, as well, we must pay attention not just to how things are, but to how they are changing. Even more importantly, we must ask what we can do to change things. For our future will be what we make of it.

What can we do to lower the percentage of Muslim youth believing suicide bombing is justified? What can we do to simultaneously grow a new generation of Palestinians who accept living in peace with Israel while growing a new generation of American Zionist organizations who advocate negotiating with them?

Like Newton, we, too, stand on the shoulders of giants. We can honor their memories by applying their understanding to helping us get out of the morass we find ourselves in.

Ah the history books tell it,
They tell it so well.
The cavalries charged,
The Indians fell.
The cavalries charged,
The Indians died.
The country was young then,
With God on its side.

Bob Dylan

History tells us that none of us have clean hands. The very fact that we are here almost certainly means that somewhere in our distant past our predecessors trampled on the rights, if not the very lives, of others. Civilization, to the extent we are achieving it, is coming very slowly to our species.

It seems to me that this is what Jesus meant when he said to pay attention to the wooden beam in our own eye, not the splinter in the eye of others. In matters of peace, humility is not just a virtue but a necessity.

The world is small and it’s getting smaller. And the simple reality is that we have to learn to live with this fact. We have no acceptable alternative to learning to live in peace. Even if not impractical, it would be immoral to kill all of them. And we sure aren’t about to let them defeat us and our way of life. Nor is the present increasingly hostile situation acceptable. Where can it lead but to more war?

Change we must. We’re on this planet together. We survive or fail together. And the sooner we recognize this simple fact, the more quickly will the world become more peaceful.

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded.

Judge Learned Hand

Imagine, if we all lived this basic American principle. Imagine if we set aside our own belief in our own rightness; if we truly sought to understand each other instead of throwing slogans past each other; if we truly weighed their interests alongside our own. How quickly hearts would soften.

We, the people, by our attitudes, our words, and our actions can change the direction of history. We, the people, have it in our power to make this a safer world.

All it takes is the courage to build bridges where others still build walls.

What better way to honor those who gave the last full measure of devotion … that government of the people, by the people, for the people has not perished from the earth.

Let freedom ring.

Copyright © 2007. 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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