Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Letter to Rush Limbaugh

Dear Rush -

The Department of Peace, brought forward by the visionary Dennis Kucinich and others who recognize that cyclical violent revenge is a no-win situation for the world's people, is not meant to replace the Department of Defense, as you stated on your show recently.

It is meant to make peace an organizing principle of our society, by funding and supporting non-violent means of conflict resolution that have been used successfully all around the world, to prevent wars before they can be started. Many, many years from now, if the Department of Peace is established and supported, the Department of Defense may become irrelevant. But in the meantime, all we can do is take these first small steps toward a world without war.

Also, thought you might like to know that you were instrumental in making me a pacifist. Essay written in October 2004 attached.

Best wishes.

Rush Limbaugh made me a pacifist.

Sometime during the run-up to the war in Iraq – during an exchange of violent e-mails among the pro-war and anti-war factions of my family – my mother asked me why I was a pacifist.

Every few weeks, I joined hundreds of thousands of civilians in New York City, Washington DC and other cities to march through the streets. We bore public witness to the fact that there was no evidence of an imminent threat, that the reasons proffered to the American public and the United Nations were bankrupt.

We had no special access to information; we simply acted as a grand jury. The prosecution had no evidence; we could not indict. We refused to stand silently complicit as our leaders condemned tens of thousands of Iraqis to death for having a tyrannical dictator and millions of barrels of oil.

Daily, we hear excuses from the Bush Administration. They defend the preemptive attack by claiming “everyone” was misled. As the original arguments for war fade in our national memory, replaced by the noble myth of building democracy, remember, not everyone was misled. Those who saw and spoke up for the truth were ignored, or vilified, as they are in every war.

I’ve tried to trace my path to pacifism. Years ago, I read The Beatitudes in the New Testament, and biographies of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I gained inspiration from those visionaries, supporting a belief I already held: a hard-to-articulate conviction that all things are connected and what hurts one hurts all.

Chris Hedges’ amazing book “War is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,” reminded me of a turning point, though. One of Hedges’ points is that only soldiers, victims and war journalists can truly understand the horror of war, because they alone directly experience war’s brutality, fear, stench, blood and moral maelstrom. Everyone else, ignorant of the reality and slaves to the myth, eagerly jumps on the nationalist war bandwagon, he implies.

But you don’t need to see war to imagine it. When I went to college in 1992, I was a staunch but lonely conservative in liberal Greenwich Village; I would sneak into the student lounge late at night to watch Rush Limbaugh. The big issues were gays in the military and women in combat. Rush would repeat: “The military is not the place for social experiments. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”

Such simple tasks are not hard to visualize. I can imagine burning up in the fiery inferno of an American bomb exploding an apartment building, and the flesh-ripping impact of an American bullet through my heart. I’ve seen photographs and read the stories of real people who not only imagined such horrors, but lived and died them.

I studied philosophy and science, slowly breaking out of the adolescent rugged individualism phase into a worldview that grants moral stature even to those who suffer and have bad luck. I learned from philosophy that humans crave meaning in our experience. From physics, I learned every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Combining the two lead me directly to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. We look to each other from birth to old age, for models of behavior and sources of meaning. Thus, since I do not want a bomb to blow up my home, nor a bullet to tear out my heart, I did not, cannot, and pray I will never support my government’s call to inflict that damage, death and despair on other human beings.


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