Monday, September 17, 2012

a wave of US peacemaking

Hal Pepinsky,,
September 17, 2012
                I just heard a wave of peacemaking sweep over National Public Radio.  On one news talk show after another , hosts and guests seriously addressed the question of what the current wave of Muslim anti-US protest is about.  Yesterday they had begun asking about the video and whether its publication might justify the demonstrations.  Today, the dialogue was split between arguing that the demonstrations represent an insignificant number of Muslims so let’s not make a big deal of it on one hand, to acknowledging the long historically reinforced perception that people in predominantly Muslim nations were backward and needed to learn to understand and appreciate superior Euro-American values.  From locally an Ohio State political science professor to the Executive Director of the Council on Foreign Relations, commentators stressed the reality of the widespread anti-Americanism across the Muslim-majority world for a history of Euro-American disrespect, denigration, colonization, exploitation, and today, pretending that the US has a God-given destiny to bring its enlightenment and democracy while supporting despotic rulers who massively torture them and restrict their civil rights.  That all presidents from Eisenhower on had a history of perpetuating this policy.  And that it was time for us all in the US to wake up to our own role in further inflaming anti-US fear and anger, especially after US-driven invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
                How refreshing it was to hear these voices of empathy from out of the US.  I call it an act of peacemaking.  It is the crescendo of a little wave of reflection from the US in response to the small but widespread anti-US murders followed by marches on US diplomatic posts.  Short as the US media attention span generally is, I expect we will now drift back toward beefing up US military security and trying to identify and track down the number one villains who murdered a beloved US ambassador.  In the best of circumstances, peacemaking is an incremental process.  The increments are particularly slow when it comes to the intergenerational process of transforming a national political culture.  Small as the wave of peacemaking I celebrate here may be, it is an infinitely significant peacemaking event.  It is significant because it is such a rare US news media event.  It shows that peacemaking can come unexpected from anywhere.  It draws a wave of surprisingly sympathetic call-ins.  It will be heard and noticed by many people in the US.  It may marginally and momentarily pleasantly surprise those who hold anti-US sentiments—that not all “Americans” hold the sentiments they normally hear us express.
                A commitment to peacemaking entails limited expectations, what social psychologist Karl Weick some forty years ago call a strategy aimed at “small wins,” which are the only changes that ultimately transform a group’s consciousness.  And so today, I celebrate the little wave that rolls through NPR, and thank the spirit of love and compassion that binds us for this blessing.  L&p hal

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