Notes from Iowa: Peace on Earth in 2010
As we greet the beginning of a new year and a new decade, let’s remember what is truly important: Saving our planet and caring for each other. We cannot do the first without doing the second. And, if we do not pull together to end the climate crisis, we will have fought each other over a planet that we don’t get to keep. Humankind will be “history,” but there will be no one left to read the records of our misdeeds.
Yet, the climate crisis is far from our only serious problem. We are warring with each other over religion, ethnicity, property, power, and money. We fight and kill each other in the name of our god, presumably the same almighty being we call by different names: Allah or Jehovah or God or Yahweh or another name entirely. To me, it makes no sense. I cannot envision an almighty being who would be pleased to have humans killing and torturing each other in the name of religion. And yet, historically, religion has been one of the major reasons we’ve shed blood, seized property, and enslaved other humans.
In my view, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can — and must — change the way we treat each other and our planet, if we want to survive as a species.
In this era of instant communication, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, SoAct, and dozens of other social network sites bridge the divide of miles and cultures. Suddenly, we have friends on the other side of the planet — people we would never have known in our entire span of time on this earth. We’ve connected electronically, but we wouldn’t recognize these people on the street.
Through social networks, we come to know our electronic friends as real people, who live, breathe, love, hurt, rejoice, sing, work, cry, and play. We learn just how much they are like us, even as their religions, cultures, and daily lives are different from our own. If we are open to it, we can even befriend individuals whose nations are warring with our own. We can create an atmosphere for peace, one friend at a time.
I’m especially grateful for Facebook as I start this new decade. It has brought me friends in nations I’ve only read about. I have a new “daughter” in Palestine, a dear young woman who has “adopted” me as I have “adopted” her. I am getting to know what she cares about, what scares her, and what she loves. Likewise, she is learning about me and my family.
Two young men also call me “mama,” one in Bangladesh and one in Italy. What’s it like in the US? they want to know. Then, What’s it like in your country? I ask in return. Like young people everywhere, they want desperately to find someone to love. We’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart talks about life, dating, and relationships, much as I have spoken with my own young-adult children. I can only imagine their parts of the world, as they imagine mine. But we have a bond of friendship.
Another young friend, a university student who lives in Pakistan, feels devoid of hope. His heart is broken, and he says there’s nothing for him to live for. Besides the loss of his love to an arranged marriage the girl cannot avoid, there are suicide bombers attacking his city, making his daily life a waking nightmare. I reach out with comfort, but I’m not there, and I don’t really know what to say to make him feel better. I feel his pain, as I would feel the pain of any friend I cared for; yet, I’ve never even seen his face.
We all have worries and fears, wherever we live. We are not so different, whether we are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, agnostic, atheist — or observe any other religion or tradition. Another new friend today declared his wish that the world will become “one family, whatever the religions, thoughts, traditions, and ethnicity.” I share his hope.
But, it is critically important to remember, as another young man from India wrote today, “All should know that to change the world, we must start from ourself.” He was writing about climate change, but his words apply equally well to making peace on earth a reality.
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