War's attractions are cruel illusions


POSTED: Monday, December 14, 2009

As I listened to President Barack Obama accept the Nobel Peace Prize, I was struck with how much he talked about war and how little he spoke about peace. You would think this was a Nobel War Prize.

Even if one believes that war is sometimes necessary, is it not possible to have one time and one platform to speak of the hope and possibility for peace?

Last week, I stayed up late to hear Charlie Rose spend one hour interviewing Gen. Stanley McChrystal. I wanted to hear the general's case for continuing the war in Afghanistan and how he sold the idea of sending more troops to President Obama, whom I voted for believing he would lead us to be less warlike as a nation.

After listening to McChrystal for an hour, I understand, I think. We as a nation are very comfortable with war. We spend billions preparing for war.

Young men and women are made to feel good about going to war even if they know they may come home in a box or without their hands and feet, not to mention that they may spend the rest of their lives screaming out in the night as they dream about what they did to other human beings.

McChrystal came across as a religious figure. He was very saintlike.

He says he runs an hour each day, sleeps only five hours and eats one meal.

He spoke of the people in Afghanistan with great reverence. My heart went out to them.

He is in love with his duty and he sucks one in to his belief that the war is necessary and just.

I contemplated that no one is representing peace in the way McChrystal represents war. No one is representing the American people in the way McChrystal represents the people of Afghanistan.

We have a few representatives in Washington, D.C., carrying the banner for peace but mostly we hear about war. No honor for the young workers for peace.

I believe President Obama went to Washington to carry the banner for peace. That changed after he spent hours of listening to the necessity and honor of war.

Perhaps it is impossible for the president of the United States to carry the banner for peace. Whatever he/she says about peace when they are running for office, morphs into war and more war, forever and ever when they find themselves in the system of war.

War is seductive; it raises the adrenalin and looks good in our history books. It looks to be more exciting than peace, until you spend time with it and know that it is an illusion. Peace demands thoughtfulness and education and quite resolve. War is much more visceral and lies waiting in our reptilian brains. Peace is what is promised in the 30-second commercial but the commercial always disappoints.

We have yet to assign to peace any of the attractions that we assign to the brand of war.

Honolulu resident Jo An Gaines, an organizer for the local Ghandi Peace Project, is an advocate of establishing a U.S. Department of Peace. She attended Boston University School of Theology, studying with many of the same professors who influenced Martin Luther King Jr.