By Joe White
“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”
“War at best, is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and in its duration, is one of the most terrible.”
It’s President’s Day in the United States of America. Citizens of the U.S.A. are expected to reflect upon the profound, personal sacrifices of two Presidents George Washington andAbraham Lincoln. We are to reflect with gratitude upon these two individuals who answered the dutiful call of their historical moment, which would demand such great individual sacrifice and hard self-determination, that they might, just might, be catalysts for historical change to the great benefit of future generations. These two presidents, amongst all others, are credited with bequeathing so much that is our present United States of America.
Eleven score and seventeen years ago, General Washington was encamped at Valley Forge under the most trying of winter conditions. Approximately 2,500 soldiers died in camp during that winter. General Washington was known, at the time, for his strategic retreats more than battles won. His command was being undermined during that winter by those who thought General Horatio Gates would prove a more able leader of the Continental Army. Just one year prior, going into the winter of 1777, General Washington had found himself and his army also struggling. Thomas Paine at that time wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
George Washington prevailed courageously facing death directly many times in many battles. Then, within a decade of the war’s end, Washington went on to serve two terms as the first U.S. president. Only two terms, as he was most concerned with the ease to which the U.S. Presidency could succumb to monarchy, as was the prevailing form of government in Europe at the time. Monarchy being preferred to the unfolding reign of terror engulfing France where the king and queen had been beheaded. How many despots in the world today could learn to relinquish power from George Washington’s example? Would there be the present Syrian civil war, if the Assad’s had not been so despotic? Would there be an ISIS, if the Washington model were followed by governments in the region? Would there be such censorship and oppression in China?
Seven score and ten years ago, Abraham Lincoln was within two months of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The end of the long, destructive civil war, taking more casualties than all U.S. wars combined, was so near. It had exhausted Lincoln and, within a week of the war’s ending, Lincoln would himself be a casualty when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. President Lincoln had first arrived in Washington D.C. in disguise four years previous to avoid threats to his life. Now, he would depart Washington D.C. having made the ultimate sacrifice so that “Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.”
Some of us at 2020 AYWW have been pushing against war itself for over four years. We have felt the exhaustion, the despair, the small successes along the way as we try to bend humanity away from this now clearly irrational method of conflict resolution. ISIS is daily in our news with its medieval methods of war. Those of us who embrace our history as a guide to avoiding past mistakes, know that the use of war in the 21st century to solve social conflict bears all the signs of irrationality. From zealot, bizarre religious views to horrific suffering and the tremendous waste of capital. Humanity’s urgent collective problems of dramatic climate change, ocean collapse, rapid disease contagion, resource sustainability, illiteracy etc. can only be effectively faced through global cooperation. While it will be expensive, the $2 trillion annual global expenditure on war will take us collectively a very long way.
NOW is the time to bring together our collective will to demonstrate what our collective efforts are capable of. Let us focus upon ending our history of war by creating just a single year without war. Let us demonstrate our collective capacity to stop this counterproductive means of conflict resolution for just one year, 2020. WE can, WE must unite on this simple, unique deadline with its expiration date. Make 2020 A Year Without War a Reality! ISIS is a daily reminder of precisely what humanity does not want to be. We now have the technology to give voice to a majority. It is your, individual choice. What sacrifice would you make at this, your historical moment, for future generations?