A few years ago, my wife and I were given a private tour of Israel. My goal on this trip was to get a better grasp of the area by identifying and understanding the various conflicting interests there. What I found was that, instead of a basic conflict between Israeli and Palestinian, there was a mind boggling array of factions, not just in addition to Israeli/Palestinian, but within each of those groups. On top of that, there were other factions, some of which I had never even heard of before. Nothing illustrates the point better than the fact that the sacred Christian shrine, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, was divided into four quadrants, with each quadrant guarded and violently defended by a separate faction of this religion of brotherly love.
I drew several conclusions from this experience. First, the interwoven fabric of the competing factions in Israel is so intricate and complex that it is likely that very web of opposing parties that holds the area together. Second, the art of statesmanship is complicated beyond my imagining, and those who are practiced in its Byzantine ways are quite probably keeping us from a state of constant war. Third, and perhaps most important, the everyday working out of relations within that maze of interests is carried out, not by states or religions or any other institution, but rather by real people and their everyday ways. Leaders may bruit about their staunch policies about this or that, but it is the people who live out the real relations. The Palestinian merchant who owns the spice shop in the Old City, the Druze cook who runs a restaurant for all in Capharnaum, the thousands of such people who live and work in this crazy quilt of contrasting religions and politics and do so with sufficient peace to allow them to wake, live their day and sleep.
It dawns on me that this quite likely, mutatis mutandis, describes relations around the world. Even here in America, people with radically different views, living at radically different economic and social levels. piece together a pattern of life that allows each of them at least a modicum of peace and contentment.
Into this carefully crafted china shop comes the thoroughly clueless and narcissistic bully, Donald Trump. He stomps on carefully crafted relationships without the slightest idea, or care, of the implications and consequences of his brutish actions. He dismantles relations with Mexico, relations built over centuries, without a thought of the damage it does to the farmer in Minnesota or the tightly budgeted family of five in New Mexico. He rips apart the environmental efforts of decades by many thousands of hard-working people without a care for the irreversible damage his actions will do to millions in the coming generations. Worst of all, most unforgiveable of all, he throws aside the American ideals of the inalienable rights of all human beings by banning whole groups of people almost exclusively on religious ground.
Mikhail Gorbachev, wise statesman that he is, recognized that all of these actions lead only to war. When we abandon our ideals and replace them with a devotion to ethnicity, when we define ourselves by our borders rather than our moral character, we start down a path that can only end in violence, and, in this day and age, that violence will be mass destruction.
Where, then, is hope? Where it always is, in the lives and actions of the people. We must condemn, oppose and reject every one of these actions. We survive and thrive because we recognize the inalienable rights of those people on whom Trump now tramples. Fear not the bombs this man drops on society. Fear the day when those bombs drop and no one objects.