When will we ever learn?

We are doomed to relive lessons we refuse to learn.

  1. No war has ever brought peace.
  2. Violence aggravates and magnifies any problem.

When victors humiliate losers they create the circumstances that fuel hate, resentments, and revenge. At home we struggle with the inevitable results of an unresolved civil war. Abroad we are up against unresolved World War I and World War II defeats.

The collapse and humiliation of the Soviet Union created the insanity festering in Putin’s brain, just like the daily beatings by his stepfather created the murderous paranoia of Hitler, and incessant put downs by his father created Trumps incapacity to accept even minor personal defeats much less major political ones.

This is toxic masculinity sweeping across the globe. While we need to defend against and respond to such phenomena, we need to be “cunning like serpents and gentle like doves.”

This is not an either/or proposition. Peace cannot thrive as long as the warrior mentality rules. Authoritarian dictators may be evil, but more likely every one of them is very sick. They need to personally be forcefully restrained.

Mercilessly humiliating whole nations only multiplies the trauma. Traumatized people create traumatizing systems. On 9/11 we had an opportunity to respond from this healthier paradigm. Instead we went to war. Brexit folks are still responding to the loss of the British empire and Austrians still dream of the good old days of the Emperor.

But the difference between us and Putin or Trump is that some of us have learned to be humble without feeling humiliated. Some have learned that to love our enemies does not mean letting them violate us personally or politically. It simply means we recognize we are interdependent, or as Thich Nhat Hanh called it: interbeing.

Therefore it benefits us to act personally as human beings even when confronted by inhuman politics. Edith Stein wrote that “we must try to overcome evil in such a way as to benefit the evil doer.”

AA spirituality teaches us to ask: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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