Choosing Good Will
By Stephen Tuttle | Dec. 21, 2019
Another year without peace on earth or good will toward anyone. Pretty much the same as last year, and the year before that, and before that.
We still have wars percolating away in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Ukraine, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Mali. Not to mention the drug wars in Mexico and various skirmishes in another dozen or so countries.
The consequence of all this fighting falls heavily on civilians. According to Amnesty International, the civilian death toll in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan alone has reached 244,000. Add another 20,000 dead in Syria, 7,000 in Yemen, plus at least 10,000 in Mexico's barbaric drug wars in which cartels seem intent on killing everybody.
(There were 15,000 homicides in the U.S., but those aren't really war casualties, just us stupidly killing each other.)
Most of the deaths are by gunfire, but explosive devices and bombardment have also killed many. The heavier the weaponry being used, the more likely it came from the United States. We are the largest arms dealer in the world by miles, and we haven't been very discriminating about who ends up with the weapons; intentionally or accidentally, we arm everybody.
Those in war zones lucky enough to avoid being killed are fleeing in mind-numbing numbers. According to the UN Commission on Human Refugees (UNCHR), a staggering 70 million civilians have been displaced by these various wars, most in the Middle East or Africa. Fully half the population of Syria has been displaced, and millions now reside in hastily created refugee camps. People have fled to other parts of their country or sought refuge or refugee status in neighboring countries. It is the largest civilian dislocation in human history.
We keep trying to wind down our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we're still there, fighting the longest wars in our history. We almost made it out of Syria — abandoning our Kurdish allies on the battlefield in the process — but then we were drawn back in to “protect” Syrian oil reserves and refining.
We haven't done much in the way of bringing bad actors into line, either. Despite our president's claim he made a deal with North Korea requiring them to “denuclearize,” the agreement only says they'll talk about it. While we're arguing about that, Kim Jong Un is back to testing longer range missiles and, according to our intelligence community, still working on their nuclear program.
So much for peace on earth. Unfortunately, good will is in very short supply, too.
In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) identified nearly 1,100 hate groups fomenting trouble in the United States. Most are either white nationalists or white supremacy fans, though they range from virulent and violent racists to virulent and violent anti-Semites to anti-government and pro-gun groups.
The hatred isn't confined to appalling rhetoric.
The Department of Justice is now required to keep statistics on reported hate crimes. In 2018, they documented more than 7,100, including 24 murders, directed at 8,800 individuals. Nearly 60 percent of those victims were attacked for no other reason than the color of their skin, their country of origin, or their religious beliefs.
As repugnant as that sounds, it's a tiny tip of a very big iceberg. There is no requirement hate crimes be reported as such, and some states don't even keep track of such crimes, categorizing them as non-hate incidents. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) believes nearly 95 percent of hate crimes are unreported, underreported, or categorized as something else.
It is shameful and just getting worse as our citizens listen to and act on the destructive bloviating from both sides of the political spectrum. If politicians can insult entire ethnic groups, women, and unpopular religions, too many of our citizens believe that's now an acceptable norm.
It is not.
Little peace and good will but not much common sense, either. We continue ignoring the overwhelming evidence of climate change — we'll increase our greenhouse gas emissions for the third year in a row — that now surrounds us. We keep selling killing machines to oppressive regimes. We insult our allies and cozy up to our enemies. We tolerate hatred and the groups espousing it.
Politicians have driven us into a ditch of killing, hatred, and stupidity, but we can ignore them and crawl back out into the light. Maybe we can’t stop the wars; they are, after all, very good business for our arms peddlers. But good will is a choice we can make, every day, with family, friends, and strangers.
The solution is not in Lansing or Washington but within each of us. Climbing out of the mud thrown by our “leaders” would be a good start. A personal commitment to civility and decency would be even better, a great gift for all of us.