The One Great Thing the Sigil Taught Me

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.  Samuel Adams

The United Nations declared 2001-2010 "A Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non Violence for the Children of the World." We have some catching up to do. Why have we made so little progress? How did we lose the vision that all life is sacred, all children beautiful?

In 1996 on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked Madeline Albright, then Secretary of State, about the U.S. sanctions against Iraq. "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it."

Who was this we? A false dichotomy was set up here. As if there had been no other option, the discussion slipped right past the use of sanctions, to whether the result was okay, weighing a recorded loss against a hypothetical gain. Beyond dichotomies, beyond winners and losers, are mediation, conciliation, and resistance. We do not need to accept the role of either aggressor or victim. We are not yet powerless.

In a world overrun with binary thinking - you’re with me or your against me - there is little room for doubt. On the forked road, we are just one path away from a single, monolithic path, a totalitarian path. We have "learned" that, like everything else, even threats have only two possible responses, and that those responses are part of our very being - fight or flight. It is time to embrace doubt.

What if, instead of Robert Frost’s simple two roads or the two doors in the Lady and the Tiger, we were in a room with many doors. The choosing would be more difficult, and the choosing would become more important than the choice. If we believe that each life is sacred, even our own, that no one is fungible, we can find the courage we need to transcend our fear, to open all those doors.