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Syria As a Tipping Point

Some of the children from the 50 Syrian families now living in a half-built apartment block near Rayfoun, Lebanon, close to the border with Syria. The families fled Syria due to the war and are now living on a building site. (Photo courtesy Eoghan Rice, CC BY 2.0)

Is Syria a tipping point in global transformation?

We already know, throughout the history of the United States, what violence can do both within and outside of our borders: the slaughter of young men and women, and injuries that impact one’s life forevermore both physically and psychologically; violence begetting violence, seeding generation upon generation with hatred, mistrust, and vengeance.

We, the United States, “save” the world from one atrocity only to be faced with another, and another, spiraling deeper into a black hole of complexity and confusion. Is this the price of being “The Superpower of the World”? Do we have to continue to save the world until—at the end of all our efforts—we become completely depleted financially, physically, emotionally, and ethically? And, in addition, deplorable in the eyes of the victims created in our efforts to save them?

Can violence ever really be a clean correction for “evil” in the world? Does the perpetrator not think he or she is as justified as the victim’s plea and the rescuer’s reaction? And do those roles not shift positions depending on circumstance and point of view? Violence begets violence becoming increasingly intense until we potentially destroy humankind and our sustainability on Earth; or, we consciously choose to stop.

We certainly cannot solve this complex and troubling situation at the level on which it is presented: the level of destruction, hatred, loss, and revenge is escalating. Control—over the lives of others where the freedom of choice in any realm is gone—presents many with only the freedom to choose death in the face of such unbearable circumstances as is present in the Middle East and many other “hot spots” in the world at this time.

In what ways can we help one another rise above these issues rather than cause more harm? How can we in the United States lead by example—especially when for most of our history we have been at war somewhere in the world, including in our own country? How can we lead through our words and actions as individuals and in the collective as a country, as a worthy superpower in the world? We are thought to be the ones who will respond; that we will take the brunt of the decision on our backs. What if we found another way to respond so that the cycle of violence is not continued “on our watch”?

I believe that we are at a tipping point: at a place in the history of the United States of America and of the world, where we must choose to transform humanity through loving kindness and by transcending our differences or else face self destruction on all levels of existence. Maybe not totally visible in our immediate lifetimes, but in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. We can already see it forming as we watch death being spread without conscience. Do we really want to leave those living in the future with this burden, this inheritance wrought from pride and arrogance, greed and hatred?

We must join together and creatively find ways of being together that support the human race as planetary beings and the planet as our only home. This is a small planet, and the human race is growing rapidly. Do we have to destroy ourselves in order to start anew? Here we are, together, facing intolerable circumstances not only with chemical weapons, but also with poverty and unreasoned animosity towards the poor, the sick, and the uneducated; with curable diseases, yet lack of healthcare to prevent or treat them; with an abundance of food and water, yet an unwillingness to share those resources and be ecologically conscious; with alternative energy resources coming to the fore, yet a lack of will to stop the destructive polluting of our planet. Millions state that they care, yet there is an unwillingness to be personally responsible; others don’t even notice a need for basic integrity in these matters. We can no longer afford such behavior.

I don’t know how to create transformation on a global scale, but “let us see what love can do.” None of it is easy, even—or maybe especially—in our dearest relationships, in our own homes and our own country, within our own internal conflicts.

I believe that President Obama will lead us in this, even if he approaches it in ways that we don’t totally understand. He may have information that the rest of us are missing. We must expect the very best from those in leadership positions and abandon our popular sport of bashing whatever we perceive as other than ourselves, especially in terms of religion and politics. I also believe that we must each be willing—personally, nationally, and internationally—to do our part in order for the whole puzzle to be solved.

In hope and trust that we can do what needs to be done to create alternatives to what seems like an impossible either/or choice.

 

Photo of children in Syria 6/25/13 courtesy Eoghan Rice, flickr/trocaire (CC BY 2.0)

Susan C. Hefte is a member of St. Petersburg (Fla.) Meeting.

Posted in: Guest Viewpoint

4 Responses to Syria As a Tipping Point

  1. Larry Ingle September 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    City & State
    Chattanooga, Tennessee
    I do not know anything about Susan Hefte, but I find myself unable to share her faith in Barack Obama. She is clearly spot-on in understanding what violence is likely to bring and the public’s irresponsibility when it comes to creating a more just society, but from much of the evidence about Obama fulfilling his campaign promises, she is relying on a weak reed indeed.

    I am just now reading a new edition of George Orwell’s correspondence and was struck by a criticism he made of pacifists and pacifism a letter of 8 April 1941: “Pacifism refuses to face the problem of government and pacifists think always as people who will never be in a position of control, which is why I call them irresponsible.”

    I’m torn by Obama’s call for military intervention in Syria, but my own pacifism leads me, however reluctantly, to suggest that Orwell was close to hitting the nail on the head in 1941. Susan Hefte and Friends generally would be better advised to formulate policies rather than rhetorical questions.

    • Susan Hefte September 7, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      City & State
      Clearwater, Florida
      Dear Larry,
      Thank you for your commentary. I must say that as the days of this have continued that I have difficulty with President Obama and John Kerry continuing to push for this war action. I am encouraged that so many persons, in and out of Congress are speaking out against this action. Perhaps this will lead to the President being willing to bow to the people. I pray so.
      Susan

  2. Ross Meagher September 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    City & State
    Phoenix, AZ
    I too do not share this faith that the current president will “lead us in this”. Nonetheless before that could happen, it would be nice to see the “information the rest of us are missing.” I remember being told in the ’60’s that the President had information the rest of us didn’t that would explain why we were fighting the messy war in Viet Nam. I am still waiting for that information.

    • Susan Hefte September 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

      City & State
      Clearwater, Florida
      Dear Ross,
      It certainly is discouraging that our presidents in the past (Viet Nam and Iraq and too many other times) have had information that they acted on without our agreement or knowledge, or even in the face of our disagreement. Perhaps we will be allowed to see the evidence, but no matter how much evidence, violence begets more violence and terrible ‘collateral damage’.
      I believe in this president and hold him in the Light of good conscience when it comes to this decision. As difficult as it might be to step down from his strong position, I believe that it is the right thing to do.

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