It was my unwittingly noticing this damaging issue — the fear and/or greed which underlies bigotry and violent interpersonal aggression — which caused my first faint, initial attempts at bringing down my internal walls: I slowly became aware of "what has happened in many parts of the world where knowledge is kept secret from the people, especially from women and female children … [it] ceases to be knowledge; it becomes dogma and superstition. Knowledge actually requires sharing in order to exist."[21] Fortunately, little by little over the past five or ten years of learning and education, my search for truth has also led me both towards compassion and away from fear. This, I now believe, is what is truly worthwhile: it is "the freedom to which we might aspire. The freedom that comes with self-acceptance, and goes beyond."[22] It is heartening to see traces of these hard-earned personal learnings in the writings of others; it feels like a trail of intellectual breadcrumbs, or an encouraging ideological signpost, which let me know I'm on the right path.

In this slow-growing exploration of a truly complete personal freedom, I find Walker's thoughts on war oddly intriguing: "I believe war is a weapon of persons without personal power … to reason, … to persuade, from a position of morality and integrity; … to go to war with any enemy who is weaker than you is to admit you possess no resources within yourself to bring to bear on your own fate."[23] Does this also validate my internal beliefs, and similarly offer hope of a better world we can both work towards? Consequently I felt a powerful pang of recognition upon reading: "When humankind writes new laws of behavior for the world, in some Time quite different from now, one of the first must be that no one will harm anyone less powerful without first visiting her or him; eating and drinking with her or him, and meeting his or her family."[24]

YES — exactly! This is precisely what I believe will make it hard to go to war; it is the deep and powerful international, interpersonal friendships — not the pompous trumpetings of insecure governments — which I believe offer a real possibility of peace. Indeed, as Walker notes, we are still grappling with the results of Vietnam — our last "major" and "concluded" war: "fifty thousand Americans died. But since the end of the war, more than sixty thousand who were in the war have died from suicide and drug overdoses and other ailments of the spirit and soul."[25] I would love to think our government has become wiser since then, but I'm not sure I can believe that. I am again intrigued as Walker discusses those who start and lead wars, both physical and ideological:

This was an act by a man who did not believe in the possibility of love, or even common sense, to transform the world. I can easily imagine there will be thousands like him born in our time … and our government will not be remotely able to 'smoke' all of them 'out of their holes.' The world being what it is, some of those 'holes' are likely to be uncomfortably close to us.[26]

Depressing though this is, she notes we do have another way: it is our choice as to who leads us — but first we must actively listen and learn:

Not to know anything about the United States' political prisoners is to miss important information about the land we call home. Sit with the thought that our prisons are bursting with inmates, many of them women and children. That African Americans make up 44 percent of the prison population but are only 12 percent of the population of the country. Consider what Jesus meant when he said 'What is done to the least of these is done also to me.' What is our responsibility to Justice in a society that privatizes the building of prisons and dreams up reasons to build more and ways to keep them full?[27]

The statistics Walker cites regarding the horrific abuses perpetrated against Native Americans even today cover two breathtaking pages.[28] What kind of country makes war against its own people? How does this damage us all as a people? Walker continues:

War will never make us safe. The only way to end it is by stopping. That is the power we have as a nation; as the most powerful nation, militarily, on Earth. Imagine what that would feel like to the world. If we said, instead of bombing small children, donkeys and chickens that never heard of us: We could blow you to bits, we could pulverize you. But we won't. In fact, we are so strong that we are not afraid to listen to you. What is it you want to tell us that you thought we could not hear unless you went for our mommies and daddies, small children — five thousand of them left without a parent, in New York City — our donkeys and our chickens? Only if we can stop the terrorism in our own hearts will we be able to stop terrorism in the world.[29]

Walker quotes Thich Nhat Hanh to clarify what it is we truly war against: "Our enemy is our anger, hatred, greed, fanaticism, and discrimination against (each other) … you must meditate on compassion in order to forgive,"[30] then quotes the Hopi for our goal: "It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other."[31] She reminds us of the healing, as well as destructive, nature of Nature, and notes of the old matriarchies: "It is the woman who says: Stop. We have enough,"[32] then also gives a bittersweet suggestion of her own:

I offer … for contemplation. If we must fight the poor around the world, let it be with pillows filled with food and blankets, houses, donkeys and chickens, heating fuel and real cakes made of butter and flour and eggs and chocolate. We can easily afford this. If the war in Afghanistan and Iraq cost us thirty-five million dollars a day, we could feed and house everyone on Earth who needs it for far less. We could even throw in violins and bicycles. Generosity towards those less fortunate is the way of the future, if a future exists. Who are we, blessed with so much, to be stingy?

Remember who we are. We are the people seen and loved. All of us. … We are people worthy of generosity, passionate advocacy, abiding loyalty and love. We are rich enough to offer these things to others."[33]

I close with a selection from Jordan's poem as quoted by Walker, because it reminds me of what I wish to work towards, and gives me hope for all of us:

–from "Poem for South African Women" by June Jordan[34]

[21] Walker, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For, 162.

[22] Ibid., 224.

[23] Ibid., 197.

[24] Ibid., 138.

[25] Ibid., 209.

[26] Ibid., 208.

[27] Ibid., 155.

[28] Ibid., 234-235.

[29] Ibid., 173.

[30] Ibid., 206.

[31] Ibid., 75.

[32] Ibid., 60; italics in original.

[33] Ibid., 181.

[34] Ibid., vi; capitalization & italics in original.

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