Peace on Earth and the End of a War

There is a lot of talk about peace on earth this time of year. My Christmas tree is laden with images of peace: doves, glittery words of peace, angels in proclamation mode. I even have a metal sculpture in the front of my house that says Peace. This has always been the season it is OK to talk about peace.

I don’t want to miss the opportunity. Lest we miss it, let’s remember that yesterday the 2nd Iraq war ended.

But without much hoopla.  It feels good to me to end a war during the Christmas season, even if I know it is mostly symbolic in nature. But it has been a quiet ending – for a war. I suppose the fact that we remember President Bush declaring “Mission Accomplished” in 2003 doesn’t help much. It was supposed to be “over” then. And then there’s the fact that the war grew very unpopular in public opinion both here and in Iraq.

I have never supported this war, but that is not important right now. What is important is that I celebrate it’s end. Peace and nonviolence is a central piece of my moral compass and I am grateful that I am here to bid it farewell.

Shouldn’t this be the time we are marching in the streets? Shouldn’t we have drinks and bands and flags waving? Sure, many of us didn’t think we should have been there to begin with. And it is a conflicted homecoming with Iraq still in turmoil. But here is the thing: our service people did what they were told to do. And, sadly, through our elected officials, WE told them what to do. We cannot let shame or worry or fear keep us from celebrating. Really. A long, painful war has ended. It deserves more attention!

It is Christmas Week, a time when Christians celebrate the “Prince of Peace”. And yesterday was the first day of Hanukkah. Have we nothing else to say about the ending of this war?

No surprisingly to you, I imagine, I have something to say!

To our troops: Hallelujah! Come on home! May you never have another war to fight. And may we support your recovery from fighting with our hearts, our policies, and our pocketbooks. 

To our elected officials: Thank you for bringing this horrid war to an end. May you learn the lessons of this war, one of which is so hard to accept: war does not lead to lasting peace. Even as we have heard President Obama declaring the war’s end, we learn that Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is being sought for terror charges by Sunni members of parliament. (Doesn’t all of this sound strangely familiar?) Really, it isn’t rocket science, congress and senate, President of the day. Heck, it isn’t even Algebra II. War begets war. Violence begets violence. If you hit someone in the playground, they are going to come back for you. Unless. Unless they see that only nonviolence will end it. This is what YOU need to learn.

To all the beautiful Iraqis: I am so very sickened at the loss of your children and sisters and fathers and friends you have experienced at our hands. I am sorry for the trauma, fear and anxiety we have forced into your lives. I am sorry we did not understand you. I am happy for you that a brutal dictator is gone – and I am praying that out of the ashes of war, something amazing will grow. I pray for your safety and well being; for your independence and your ability to care for all of your citizens. And I pray for the day that your beautiful country will be free of tyrants, as I pray this for my own country. 

And to you who nearly missed it, as I nearly did, when the day of peace came: We can allow ourselves to be thrilled by this ending. We can live into a higher truth that knows how to party when peace comes. These are the times when we can be saying, “We will never forget.” Not when wrongs are done to us. We will never forget that peace is coming, and that we are experiencing a small piece of that now.

Moments like these are shadows of a lasting peace, perhaps a foreshadowing of something oh so much more beautiful. I know it’s crazy, but I really believe that one day war will end. And I believe that when we celebrate peace, even imperfect peace, we bend the universe toward it lasting.

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