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Why Mennonites are so quiet about the war?by John D.Yoder
March 9 ,2005
I see this as two questions: Why is corporate church quiet and why am I, as a member of the church, quiet about the war?
On the corporate side, I suspect many of us don't speak up because we have the feeling those in power won't hear anything we say. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz appear to be isolated in an ideological bubble; as a result, they are not open to alternative ideas for conflict resolution, building bridges or diplomacy. Instead, they act out American triumphalism, a 21st century version of manifest destiny, like strident world bullies who appear to think that the only way to conduct foreign relations is down the barrel of a gun. To me that smug self-righteousness is a major frustration.
I saw Richard Perle, major neo-conservative policy maker on C-span, and when he was asked if there weren't some non-military ways to advance American security in the world, he said he didn't think much of soft diplomacy like that to enhance national security. I found myself screaming at the TV in frustration.
To speak to this group is like spitting into the wind. It's pointless. I feel powerless to make a difference. Our congressional representatives are no less rigid. It's a discouraging situation.
Contributing to the feeling of powerlessness is the fact that there are no real elected critics of the war. In 60s we had William Fulbright, Gene McCarthy who gave us hope for political change. I don't see any political leaders with backbone. Kerry's votes for the war made it difficult to speak against it.
If we have a militarized foreign policy that seems incapable of conducting international relations outside a military framework, why bother?
On personal level I've done modest things. Basically, I do what might get some results, like talking to people who will listen. I teach 10th grade Sunday school, and it is in that context that I talk about the war, alternative ways to resolve conflicts, peacemaking and Christian attitudes. I organized a special class before the war to make sure our students understood the issues.
Through a roundabout process, I discovered that a friend was in Iraq with the Army. When she came home, I invited her to lunch to listen and learn what I could about the situation from a soldier's perspective. I just listened to her stories or army and Iraqi ineptitude. I wanted to make a connection.
Neither attitude is prophetic.
I confess my biggest challenge is to avoid demonizing this administration. I fear that what I said about them not be able to listen to alternatives moves in that direction. I would be happy for some help in knowing how to avoid the stereotyping of them that characterizer their thinking about those who disagree with them.