Dreams of Peace

In 2006, Neil Young released an album called “Living With War.” On the title track, his lyrics include, “I’m living with war in my heart everyday” and “when the night falls, I pray for peace, try to remember peace.”

Those lyrics struck a chord for me. I had not joined protests against the war in Iraq that had started three years earlier. It was too easy to just think of the war as an event that was far away and beyond my ability to influence.

But the idea of “living with war in my heart every day” was a reminder of how easily we all accept this brutal reality. 

I did a little research before Christmas to get a sense of how many ongoing violent conflicts were taking place in our world. The answer was devastating. There are seven conflicts that caused at least 10,000 deaths last year, another 14 that caused between 1,000 and 9,999 deaths, and another 21 that caused 100-999 deaths.

As a State Legislator, I have rarely commented on foreign policy. But the brutal attack by Hamas on the people of Israel on October 7th thrust the issue of war into the forefront. I have received many emails from constituents and have had many conversations with my Jewish and Palestinian colleagues and friends. 

While I can’t pretend to fully understand the dynamics of the conflict in Gaza, I can see quite clearly how much pain and fear are being experienced by our friends and neighbors right now. Antisemitism and Islamophobia are both surging in the US, and there are stories every day about acts of violence being committed against people in our communities. People I know have lost friends and family in Israel and Gaza.

The issue is incredibly fraught. I have been asked to sign onto statements calling for a ceasefire, and I have so far declined to do so because I know these statements have increased fear and pain among my Jewish friends and constituents. And yet my decision not to sign on has caused fear and pain among my Palestinian and Arab friends and constituents. Kyra and I have had many conversations about it, and while she shares my concerns, she also feels so strongly about the horrifying number of Palestinian women and children whose lives have been lost that she opted to sign onto a letter calling for a bilateral ceasefire. 

What Hamas did on October 7th was unconscionable. It was a terrorist act that took the lives of 1200 innocent Israelis and took 250 hostages.

While it is true that the people of Gaza have been suffering for a long time, this is no justification for the taking of innocent lives. Violence only begets more violence, as we have seen in this world time and time again. 

It is understandable to me that Israel feels it must eliminate the threat that Hamas poses to its people. The Israeli people cannot feel safe if Hamas is left to pursue another brutal attack next year.

While I have stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, I can’t help believing there must be a better way for the Netanyahu government to be pursuing this goal. In under three months, over 21,000 Palestinians have been killed, largely due to airstrikes. It is hard to get data about how many of these were civilians versus militants, but the Israeli government released a statistic that suggests that 2/3 of the deaths were civilians. And separate accounts indicate that 8,000 of the deaths were children.

I very much hope that the Israeli government puts an end to these airstrikes and focuses their efforts on more targeted strategies to go after the leadership of Hamas. And I hope to see the Biden Administration and our Congressional Delegation maintain pressure on the Netanyahu government to take this more humane approach.

Not that war can every really be humane. There are not enough tears in all the world for the loss of innocent life in Israel, Gaza, Ukraine, North Africa, Mexico, Ethiopia, Sudan, and so many other places.

There are no easy answers, either. It’s too simple to just call for an end to all war. But if there is to be war, every effort must be taken to preserve every innocent life.

And we must invest so much more in creating conditions for peace across the world. No human being should go without food, water, and shelter. No community should be left exposed to the spread of disease without adequate health care resources. There is more than enough wealth in the world to support these basic dignities. But when it comes to political will, we too often come up short.

Even in our own country, we don’t invest nearly enough in creating conditions for peace. Poverty, homelessness, overdose, gun violence… sometimes it’s too much to bear.

As we enter another new year, may we not let it leave our hearts that we are indeed living with war every day, may we dream of peace, and may we all find ways, whether in our work or in our own daily lives, of creating a better world.

Chris

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