It isn’t so much my dream for the New Year, or even my hope. It’s more a demand. But sometimes it feels as though I might as well demand that the Earth stop its spin.
I want peace. Meaningful peace. Peace in which the richest and most powerful nation in the world stops—actually stops—spreading armaments and troops and plots and assassinations and political turmoil and economic hardship across the planet.
I’ve been dreaming that dream since I was a young adult and first began to understand the insidious role my country—my country!—plays on the world stage. I dream and I despair.
Surely it is naïve, as a citizen of that marauding country, to ask for world peace. At the very least, it is a woman’s dream. Even worse, perhaps, it’s the dream of a woman who writes children’s books. Who could be less in touch with the real world?
Certainly, it’s a dream dashed every election cycle when peace is never a choice, because every contender vying on the ballot will take us down the same terrible path.
I realize, of course, that I’m not alone. Most of us love peace, want peace. But do we demand it?
Decade after decade, election cycle after election cycle, in this beloved and privileged country, we vote for and then passively follow leaders who promulgate war, destabilize struggling countries, bully their way across the international stage. If we don’t exactly agree with what they are doing, we look the other way, because . . . well, where else is there to look?
In 1953 President Eisenhower, a military man as well as President, gave a speech entitled, “A Chance for Peace.” That’s when he coined the now ubiquitous term, “the military-industrial complex.” His words have been revered for more than half a century.
Here is the way that speech concluded:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.
It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.
It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.
We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.
We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.
This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Who in our government is holding up such figures today? Who is asking the questions those figures demand? Who even recognizes the reality of that cross?
At the beginning of this New Year, many of us here in the United States—and not only women and children’s writers—dream and hope for peace in this beleaguered world. Isn’t it time that we, all of us who regret the way our nation plays out its wealth and power across the planet, do more than dream and hope?
Eisenhower’s words have been revered for decades. Every one of us who wants peace must demand that our government, finally, oh-so-belatedly, listen to those words . . . and to us.