Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Give Peace a Chance

October 15, 2012

Give Peace a Chance

By John Perkins

The Lennon Ono Peace Award ceremonies were inspirational, thought provoking, and deeply emotional. Now, in a hotel room looking out over the Reykjavik harbor at the distant glacier and hearing John Lennon's words "I hope some day you will join us and the world will live as one," I am filled with renewed hope.

As I sat on that stage, I was deeply impressed by the variety of recipients. They ranged in age from early 20s (Pussy Riot) to late 60s (me) and in style from an on-the-ground activist killed for defending her beliefs (Rachel Corrie) to a super-star musician (Lady Gaga) and a controversial writer (Christopher Hitchens). Three were incarcerated in a Russian prison (Pussy Riot) and two were represented by their families because they had passed on (Rachel and Christopher). The one thing they all had in common was that they had been singled out by Yoko Ono. Her commitment to a peace initiative that she and her late husband had started before his death in 1980 set the tone for the day's events. Every speaker called on the people of the world to recognize that if we are to continue living on a planet our children will recognize we must devote ourselves to peace.

Later that evening, I experienced one of those profound moments: a knowing that we are all connected and here on this planet at this time in history for a shared reason. It was during the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower on a small island off the coast of Iceland and the accompanying music by a local choir, along with the voice of John Lennon singing "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance." There were perhaps a thousand people from all over the world; we shared a bond that stretched from Pole to Pole.

It seems ironic that politicians can convince their followers that the road to security and peace passes through violence. We must, we are told, employ armies to obtain and insure peace. By now we should recognize the lie in that assertion. We know that violence does not beget peace. In the past, it may have stopped brutal dictators, such as Hitler, but today's wars serve to increase the riches of a few, the very wealthy who own the businesses that supply armies and rebuild wrecked economies – and cause misery for the rest of us. Wars can subjugate, intimidate and enslave and, by doing so, appear to force others to follow the rules of the perpetrator of violence; but armies inevitably create resentment, hostility and ultimately more violence.

As I stood there on that tiny island, staring up into the blue light that reached from the Imagine Peace Tower high into the atmosphere, I thought about the responsibility we in the United States share in the peace process. We have a military presence in more than 100 countries. When I visit one of these, people ask how my fellow citizens would feel if Russia or China built bases in California or Florida. Not far from the Peace Tower is a military base the U.S. closed in 2006. Icelanders hold this up as an important moment in their history; it is a point of pride and one of the factors that inspired them to stand up to multinational bankers and refuse to be burdened by debts foisted on them by economic hit men. The largest US military base in Latin America was located in Ecuador. When the lease came up for renewal in 1999, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said he would renew it if the U.S. would grant Ecuador a lease to build its own base in Florida. Washington declined and so did Correa.

Why are Latin American leaders more inclined these days to deal with China than the U.S.? When I ask them this question, the most common answer is "Because China doesn't have a military history on this continent. The U.S. does." The moment of truth has arrived. The current economic crisis has sent a message that we must tighten our belts. Let us slash the military budget. Allow the world to know that John Lennon has been heard. We will imagine peace. We will give it a chance. If we truly want to live in a world that is just, sustainable, and peaceful, we must set the example now. We are the strongest nation on earth. Let us show our strength by laying down our weapons.

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