For many months now I have asked others and myself this question in regard to the Palestinians.
Why would any group of reasonably intelligent people want to be fenced into a small, arid enclave with no way in or out, with few known resources, natural or otherwise, with little industry to offer jobs to the people, surrounded by unfriendly neighbors or uncaring friends? Why would they sacrifice the lives of their youth and the best years of four generations, while spending their inheritance on a hopeless struggle for a dream of liberty, equality and justice? One which is shared with them by almost no others when the light of day is cast upon that dream? Does the dream become a nightmare from which they cannot escape and no one is able to awaken them? Is it as if some “evil force” cast a spell upon them and they are required to push a stone the size of the Washington Monument, butt end first, up Pikes Peak? Everyday a few go out to undertake, once again, the required task; once again they fail to make any headway. In fact, the pointed end of the rock slips back a little and crushes some of those who labor so diligently. Unable to break the spell of the “Evil One” they remain in a hypnotized state and dutifully sacrifice all their energy on some folly while the rest of us watch in astonished disbelief.
Such a nightmare is taking place, many places in the world today. Millions of us are victims of that nightmare and that spell. For many of us the force which impels us to continue is the hope of peace, but only a peace which embodies liberty, or freedom, or justice and the pursuit of happiness. Without these characteristics peace is a sham. It is only harmony- the harmony which enslaves us. A peace imposed on us against our natural will.
I have told the story many times of coming home to four boys with one accusing the others of mistreating him or some combination of that tale. After a hard day I wanted a little peace. So I enforced a lot of harmony. I did not care one whit for justice. I only wanted peace and quiet and a warm supper for my growling belly. I have been reminded many times since of my despotic conduct.
Those of us who live together on this only Earth must do better. We have undertaken to listen to the tales of the underdog, the marginalized, the poor, and the injured traveler on the road to Jericho. In America we have been there, done that, and have the tee shirt to prove it. We have been the downtrodden and we have been the downtrodden, we have been in the ditch but we have been the Good Samaritan.
As the unquestioned leader of the “Free World” can we break the spell of the “Evil One”? Or, we can watch stolidly as the underdogs, the marginalized, the poor, or the injured traveler make it the best they can. If so we will pay a high price. We have much and much is expected of us.
We must decide how to use our national resources and power. How would we like to be treated? Can we learn from our own history, our own mistakes as we pushed the rock up the hill? Have we translated that knowledge into wisdom? Or have we closed our eyes, our hearts, our souls, our minds to our mistakes and continue to plod along the road of all great nations under the sun?
Frequently our “best intentions” are snubbed. Too many times our so-called “best intentions” are not best for any but ourselves. But politics is the art of the possible and we cannot do the impossible. Or can we? We have and continue to do so. We know that what was impossible yesterday is a challenge to be fulfilled tomorrow.
No less than a score of friends have told me that the problem in the Mid-East cannot ever be solved because “those people have been fighting among themselves for thousands of years”, hardly the case! Until 1948 they lived in peace for over 400 years while a part of the Ottoman Empire. Not a desirable status but in peace nonetheless, since they shared a common enemy. As the saying goes in that part of the world ” My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the invader. Praise God”
No question that the animosities in that region are old. Brothers against cousins, all against the invader. The Canaanites and the Philistines were defeated by the Hebrews. The Canaanites and the Philistines were Arabized by the Arab Moslems as were the Spaniards, the Balkan countries, the Berbers and even the Irish.
But here in the United States of America the Europeans conquered the Indians, the Confederacy was conquered by the Union, the Mexicans by the Texans, the English by the Revolutionaries and we have learned to get along pretty well.
Why should the Palestinians leave their native soil? Why should the United States of America continue perpetuate our biggest international diplomatic blunder of the last century? Why do we continue to be downtrodders? That is a lesson we should have learned a long time ago. I think it is we who are in a trance imposed on us by the “The Evil One”.
In truth, the bad dream is ours. We are those struggling to push the stone up the mountain. No matter how hard we try we cannot defeat the hope which arises in the soul of humankind, the search for liberty, justice, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. Why shouldnt the Palestinians sacrifice the lives of their youth and the best years of four generations, while spending their inheritance on a hopeless struggle for a nationalistic dream, one which is shared by almost no others when the light of day is cast upon that dream.
We did. They should.
But not for some arid enclave with no way in or out, with few known resources, natural or otherwise, with little industry to offer jobs to the people, surrounded by unfriendly neighbors or uncaring friends. Like any group of reasonably intelligent people they should not want to be fenced in. They should stay in their own land and the invader should learn to get along with them. The United States of America should help them do that. Otherwise we are just another “downtrodder of the innocent, the marginalized, the poor, the traveler by the side of the road. In our nightmare we will be doomed to the trash heap of history alongside the other egocentric cultures who forgot from whence the came.
I hope we have “better raisin than that”
(Mr. Charles Howell is Chairman and CEO of Trust for the Future, Inc. in Nashville, TN)