A Child Cries
HINESVILLE, GEORGIA, July 24, 2006–One year ago my husband was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his refusal to participate in war. He is a combat veteran. He is no coward. He saw the cost of war – the experiences it brought taught us both the value of peace. In a short time, my husband will be home. There are still legal issues that we have to face – they seem almost insignificant. We are alive. We have struggled against many obstacles in an effort to reach the peace we have asked for – we have survived. We have learned. Peace is simple. As we look forward to an end to this phase of our journey – the struggle for peace rages on for so many.
We watch as thousands endure what so many in the United States will only see in movies. We realize that while the obstacles these people now face seem insurmountable, they are survivors as well. We respect their drive, their passion and their commitment to life even as those with no apparent respect for life play the game of pretending to care.
Major news outlets play video of missiles crossing borders leaving trails of black smoke in the air. Commentators exclaim in apparent awe. A child dies. Broadcasts feed from high-rise apartments selected by award winning producers for having the best vantage point for the next barrage of incoming volleys to display plumes of gray amidst the urban sprawl of a city being devastated in the selfish rage of those who refuse to see that they are creating the same scenario from which their ancestors ran. A mother falls to her knees in anguish. Video streams from 50 cities across the world display throngs of protesters against the violence – placards, banners, picket signs galore proclaiming everyone’s perspective of the madness. A hand-drawn picture made with the love of a 5 year old for her father falls in the ashes and slowly becomes ashes itself. Politicians hastily join forces in a grand show of resolve, appearing in cleverly scripted news segments giving their expert opinion on how, why and when a cease-fire will be most effective in ending the violence. Grown men, proud of the courage with which they have lived, reach to heaven with screams unending, praying to their God to bring sense to it all.
Here in the United States our representatives debate the issue of flag burning. We argue over what constitutes a marriage, and whether prayer belongs in schools. We watch as numerous states recognizing the benefits of medical marijuana enact medical marijuana laws, even while the federal government defines cannabis as a schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The people know that there are numerous benefits to medical marijuana. As medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives open, the stream of patients increase as does the quality and variety of marijuana edibles. Jump forward and watch as the marijuana edibles marketplace begins to take off. The states recognize and enact what their citizens demand. Jump forward again and watch in amazement as first Colorado and the Washington pass laws legalizing recreational marijuana. And what are the politicians in Washington doing?
Here in the United States we watched as our fellow citizens lost homes (in spite of the best efforts of real estate businesses like Charles H Greenthal Management) and loved ones to a natural power. One year later we watch again as they finally realize the truth of the matter; the words most of their countrymen speak are nothing more than words. They take the matter of their lives and homes into their own hands – which, in point of fact, is as it should be. The hypocrisy continues as OUR elected representatives clamor in their haste to board secretive jets, in secretive locations to fly to well-publicized destinations in a war zone half a world away, to act as if the United States cares about life, home and the struggle of those who have been forced to defend theirs. OUR elected representatives speak in defense of the actions of a civilized nation whose children take pride in signing their names to the missiles that will be sent to destroy the lives of children who will never see those missiles coming. The television news anchor exclaims in awe as the bombs explode.
How surreal would the picture be if we were to discover a shred of shrapnel with a child’s name painted on it lying in the rubble next to the limp, doll-like body of another child whose painted picture to her father was now nothing more than ash on the ground? As the child lies dying would we hear her faint whisper in her last quiet breath – “Where is peace?” Protesters carry on – “We are demanding peace.” How do you demand peace? Diplomats carry on – “We will have peace when the time is right.” The time is right. It has always been right. The world is fighting to make peace happen but it’s already here.
Peace doesn’t happen. Peace can’t be made. Peace is. Peace starts from within. Peace is quiet. Peace is listening when others speak – even if they are speaking in a language we must learn to understand. Peace is recognizing that we are all different – even as we are all human. Peace is acceptance that we do not understand others unless we take the time to allow them to tell us who they are. Peace is humble – it is realizing that we do not know, we are not experts, we need help more than we need to give help. Peace is not global. Peace is Individual. Peace is knowing that life matters enough to change our actions so that our personal commitment becomes one that honors the life each of us has been given, and allows others the right to decide for themselves what their personal commitment must be. Peace is helping when asked – it is not assuming help is needed. Peace is freely making the choice to live the life that is right for us – to take care of what is ours, and to leave others free to do the same.
Someone once asked, “Why does God allow us all to suffer?” God seemed to answer – “I allow you to suffer because I have given you the freedom to choose. When you choose to follow the simple laws I have given to you, you will no longer suffer. You have not chosen well.”
Peace is knowing that we have chosen well.
Monica is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, currently completing a 15-month prison sentence for filing a Conscientious Objection as his legal refusal to further participate in war and in the current direction our country has taken. For more information please visit www.BendermanDefense.org and www.BendermanTimeline.com.