The New Rambler, Series 2

Gentle Readers,

The pieces I’m sending out now were written in the last couple of days, based on thoughts I’d been having now for weeks, or months, or years. As I write this preface now, I’m listening to NPR tell me that military strikes have begun against Afghanistan. I’m listening to a White House correspondent report that George Bush has noted, again, that these attacks are only one aspect of a multifaceted military strategy, and that some aspects of this strategy will, by necessity, be covert, and we will never know about them. I would like you, for a moment–particularly those of you who are older than I am, who have memories more direct than the accounts I have received from books–about the covert, secret military actions you know about. (Sometimes, I believe, these were called “police actions.”) I would like you to think about wars in the past, in which, theoretically, strikes were made only against military targets, and I would like you to think about collateral damage. I would like you to think about how you wage a war against an enemy you cannot see, whose whereabouts you do not know, and whom you have represented consistently not as a person or even a group of people but as a concept, an -ism. I would like you, if you can, to think of the number of American casualties in any recent war, and then I would like you to think if you can remember, or even find, the number of casualties on the other side. I have noted to many of you on many occasions that I do not really believe in moral progress. It seems to me that the aggregate level of human suffering has remained the same across the centuries. I still believe that. But I also believe that we are obliged to try, and I believe, more now than ever, that peace can never be achieved or kept through strength. Einstein, whom I believe said that first, concluded by noting that this peace “can only be achieved through understanding.” I think grass roots organizing promotes understanding, that reading promotes understanding, that singing promotes understanding, that loving–family and friend and neighbor and stranger alike–promotes understanding. I encourage you to continue with it all, and to preserve, for yourselves and those around you, those things which are good about civilization.


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