Einstein argued for a non-violent approach to war, saying
“Taken on the whole, I would believe that Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit…not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in what we believe is evil.”
Speaking for himself, Gandhi opposed war saying
“I object to violence because, even when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.”
People ask how I can advocate for peace and non-violence when I myself am a military veteran. Yet it’s also been said that no one prays for peace more than a soldier. Those of us who have been to war are often the biggest proponents of peace. I have learned the hard way that I do not ever want another person to see war unless every other option has been fully pursued and war is the last resort. Young men and women die in war, and their lives should never be gambled away needlessly.
Just because war, poverty and violence exist does not mean that we must accept them as inevitable and not even try to improve the world. Too many have given up and accept war, poverty, and violence as just the way things are. But what makes humans great is our ability to look beyond the way things are to how things can and should be. What makes humans different from all other creatures, is our ability to change our environment, and our ability to rise above the ordinary situations we find ourselves in and to develop something better. Advances in mankind have been slow. It was not very long ago we were justifying enslaving our fellow humans. Only recently in our history have we come to see slavery as morally reprehensible. Only recently did women gain equal rights. Only recently did we outlaw child labor or make the argument that all men are created equal and that human rights are inaliable. The tremendous advances in society only happened very recently…so why should we give up even trying to make further great advances just because war, poverty and violence have always existed? The same argument could have been made a mere century ago against women’s rights, against worker rights, and against abolishing slavery and child labor. The idea that all children should be afforded an education was unthinkable 2 centuries ago.
The abolition of war, violence, and poverty must seem equally unthinkable today, but just because something is unthinkable does not mean it is undoable. The many great advances in society since the founding of the American republic – itself a revolutionary and radical idea at the time – were all thought undoable. Yet humans advanced anyway. We have to understand that war, poverty, and violence are all conditions created by humans. Therefore they are all conditions that are solvable by humans. Our greatest ability, indeed what sets us apart from animals, is our ability to see beyond our current situation and to rise above it.
Humans can and will rise above our current situation.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.” Want peace? Treat everyone you meet with kindness and dignity, including those of your own household. As Mother Theresa pointed out, world peace begins in the home, in your neighborhood, and then spreads out to the world. Peace will not come until we learn to ignore the siren song of nationalism and seek to understand one another as human beings with the same hopes, dreams and fears. We have to empathize with one another’s suffering around the world and seek to render support and to practice kindness and compassion toward one another as fellow human beings. Only when we see one another as fellow human beings just like us will we be able to start to end war.
Martin Luther King Jr. also said “Love, mercy, and forgiveness should stand at the center of our lives”. His admonishment applies to nations as well as individuals.