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14 August 2006

NGO Vleeptron: Thank God or Thank Somebody for the Cease-Fire! Guns are silent!

A tavernkeeper (Hoagy Carmichael) watches as his veteran nephew (Harold Russell) plays the piano with hooks in place of the hands he lost during World War II. Standing, another veteran just home, played by Fredric March. From the 1946 movie "The Best Years of Our Lives" -- seven Academy Awards, including two for Harold Russell, and Best Picture.

For all soldiers, for all civilians, for every living creature, this is a little greeting card to express my happiness for the Cease-Fire. The guns and artillery have stopped firing, the bombs and the rockets have stopped dropping.

It is not Peace. But it will do for the moment. It is better than the Other Thing.

Full-scale War lasted for a month.

On Internet Relay Chat, in many languages, the awful month was a Festival of Blaming Everyone Else for the War.

The NGO Vleeptron Blame Assessment Report blames just about everyone on Earth.

Every Uncle who ever told his little nephews and nieces that all A's are dirty, lying people.

Every fool who ever hoped for a War so that the Evil X would finally be punished and killed.

Because the fool forgot that the young drafted soldier from the family in the apartment downstairs would be killed, too. Or maybe just come home with one of his arms missing, so the fool would never be bothered with the young man's piano playing again.

Although after World War One, so many young pianists came home, to Paris, to Hamburg, to Edinburgh, to Vienna, to Milano, to Budapest, missing a hand or an arm that composers wrote a lot of piano music for one hand, some for just the right hand, some pieces for just the left hand. The music store can sell lots of sheet music for one-hand piano.

Every politician who smelled that Hate would get him more votes, so he poured kerosene on ashes that always have red glowing coals, so he got re-elected.

Every voter who was so frightened or so ignorant that he voted for the Hate and Fear Party, and laughed at and insulted and threatened the tiny, goofy-looking Love and Peace Party.

Is Peace in the Middle East impossible, as the Realistic People on Undernet tell me?

George F. Kennan used to be the USA's Ambassador to the Soviet Union during the worst of the Cold War, when everyone was convinced Peace between the Soviets and the Western Powers would always be impossible, that they would forever live on the precipice of War with intercontinental ballistic missiles loaded with thermonuclear bombs.

So he wrote about two "neighbors," two powerful next-door countries with big, powerful armies. For 1000 Years, every 20 or 30 years, these two countries had sent their armies to kill the other army, to burn cities, to rape, to pillage, to grab big chunks of land from the other. In both countries for a millennium, it was impossible to live even a medium-length lifetime without experiencing a war.

England and France.

Their Thousand-Year War -- the part with blood and fire and sword -- ended about 1820.

So for almost two centuries since, French women and men and English men and women have been born, lived long lives, and died, and have never known a simple, direct war between England and France.

They still don't like each other.
They make insults and jokes about each other's food and each other's personal cleanliness, and each other's sexual and romantic habits, and each other's clothes. They fight about treaties and agreements about fishing and wine and cheese and trade and tariffs all the time.

But never a gun or a sword is drawn -- they fight in the newspapers and television, and in international courts and trade councils.

If they meet in a bar or at a football game and get drunk, they punch each other in the face. And then they go home with a black eye or a broken nose, where their wives call them idiots.

(Sometimes a French person falls in love with an English person, and vice-versa, and they get married. Israel's naughty little secret: Sometimes an Israeli Jew falls in love with a Muslim/Arab/Palestinian, and vice-versa, and they get married. Thousands of such families. Having babies, pissing off the in-laws.)

Now France and England are just ordinary bad neighbors. The Thousand Year War ended longer ago than any living woman or man can remember. England has an army and France has an army. The armies still go to war -- but in other directions, never against each other. Since 1820, when there have been big wars in Europe, England and France have been allies, and fought on the same side.

Israel and a changing roster of its Arab neighbors have been in a state of war for exactly as long as I have been alive.

When I was younger, there used to be little tragic jokes. From Damascus, leaders would scream:

Syrians will fight against Israel
down to the last Egyptian!

Because for most of the wars, when the Arab World declared war against Israel, mostly young Egyptian soldiers died.

Jimmy Carter (Nobel Peace Prize, awarded just at the outbreak of Bush 2's Iraq War) brokered a Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt, the Camp David Accords, that still lasts to this day, 25 years later. Israelis don't love Egyptians, and Egyptians don't love Israelis. But their big, angry, powerful armies have never warred against each other ever since. Even during this terrible Month of War in the Middle East, Egypt just sat it out. So did Jordan. Jordan's old dead king stopped warring against Israel, and his son the new king continues the No War policy.

NGO Vleeptron's Assessment: War in the Middle East is just a 60-year worsening collapse and a worsening failure of Political Leadership and Citizen Imagination.

When a Frenchman can only imagine war against England, and an Englishman can only imagine war against France -- you get War Without End.

Again, to all in the unhappy region, to all in the Much Too Holy Land, I rejoice that the guns have fallen silent, and hope they remain silent. To give everyone a chance to rebuild their lives and a chance to Imagine better.

To give aunts a chance to yell at their husbands about what they say in front of the nephews and nieces.

The guns have fallen silent. Thank God. And for those who don't believe in God, Thank Somebody.


When in Berlin, visit

Das Antikriegsmuseum

Brüsseler Straße 21
13353 Berlin DE
(030) 45 49 01 10


pat's pub said...

well here's the url

recommeneed essential reading:
Sir Steven Runcinan: The History Of The Crusaes
Amin Maaluf (lebanese journalist) The Crusades Through Arab Eyes
this is where the whole shagang started.

U.B. said...

Jim Olson said...

Peace is only possible when both or all sides want it. As long as it is in someones financial, political or religious interest for there to be warfare, then there will be warfare.

Hebrew and Christian scripture both record violence in this part of the world as much as 5000 years ago, among all the peoples of the region. What hubris, then, on the part of any modern government, to think that peace can be imposed on the Middle East.

Bob Merkin said...

You have perhaps heard NGO Vleeptron's Middle East Peace Plan, a central aspect of which is to make this region into The Much Less Holy Land.

God has been commanding far too many of His children in this region to murder far too many of His other children much too often.

So we need to make The Holy Land about as Holy a place as Pittsburgh, or Antwerp.

In Pittsburgh and Antwerp, God commands people to murder other people now and then, and then the authorities arrest these people and put them in psychiatric hospitals, and in a few days the Holy Murder story vanishes from the newspaper and the local TV news, and everybody goes back to daily life.

NGO Vleeptron hopes to help all Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druze not to believe in and love God any less, but to hear His voice whisper Funny Stuff in their ears about as often as He whispers to His children in Antwerp or Pittsburgh or Columbia, South Carolina.

I mean no disrespect to any Believers, one of whom -- in my Odd Sort of Spinoza-esque Pythagorean Sufi Huckleberry Finnstein way -- is moi.

But we really need to do something to dramatically reduce the frequency of these Direct Commands heard by His Children to murder His Other Children.

Of the Holiness of these places, their Special Meaning to God -- there ought to be a way to make Pilgrimage to these places, and be overwhelmed with the passion to have a beautiful Group Hug with everyone near us.

And nothing more newsworthy.

About six Christmases ago, I saw newsfilm of Carlos Santana at Bethlehem, and I have never seen a wider smile on a human face. If he had the slightest impulse to reach for something and Do Something Holy, it was a guitar, to play music for those around him.