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A repudiation of violence? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Johnston   
Thursday, 06 November 2008 16:33

Tree of Life

The picture above is of a sculpture called the Tree of Life that was made a few years ago in Mozambique out of weapons that had been given up by the people in exchange for tools like shovels, ploughs, sewing machines and bicycles making the Micah prophecy a reality in that country.

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
(Micah 4:3)

The Christian Council of Mozambique have been supporting this work following the terrible civil war that lasted seventeen years. Although it ended in 1992 the country is still awash with weapons. It can take a long time to transition from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. (There's more...)

If you have been following this blog over the last month you will know I have posted a number of times about violence here, here, here and here. Of the many, many positive things I see flowing from the decision made by the American electorate to elect Barack Obama one of the most important is the repudiation of the way in which violence has been used to achieve ends over the last years, particularly with respect to Iraq and the ill-conceived "War on Terror".

John McCain's campaign was suffused with militaristic language, relied heavily on his own war record (which I would in no way want to impugne), and offered an even more aggressive policy towards other nations than that which the world has suffered through under President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Ike had it right

Many years ago in his farewell address another president, Dwight Eisenhower, warned the world of the changes that the growing military industry meant:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

I have no doubt in my own mind that under Bush and Cheney (remember that Cheney was the CEO of a huge company with many military contracts: Halliburton) exactly what Eisenhower warned of came to pass. Huge decisions that impacted millions of lives have been made with one eye on the profits it will bring to the companies that provide the equipment, resources and backup. The jingoistic tub-thumping that saw the application of violence as the means to achieve any end thrived in the years after 9/11. The institutionalisation of torture has been just the most obvious form of the moral decline this reliance on violence brought.

A new path

On Tuesday I believe the American people decided to try a different way. While McCain spoke endlessly in the last days of his campaign of fighting, threats and fear, Obama maintained his emphasis on hope and change.

I am not naive enough to think that the new Democratic administration is going to bring world peace. Indeed, in many respects some of what they will do will cause me to grind my teeth in frustration, I am sure. No matter how much the Democrats are pilloried for being left-leaning in the USA, they would still be a far-right party in this country!

Nonetheless, I am convinced that there will be a far greater emphasis on peaceful means to achieve an end under the new administration. For that, I am truly thankful.

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