I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
From Langston Hughes to Walt Whitman to Wilfred Owens to Joan Baez to Pete Seeger and John Lennon to myriad other poets and songwriters, I have only heard and read of pleas for peace in our world.
Yes, there has been poetry and music that beats a drum, but I have never heard or read of an all-out plea for war.
Until President Obama decided to use diplomacy with Iran, that is. Now most Republicans and Benjamin Netanyahu’s party want war. With Iran. Despite the agreement of most world leaders, weapons experts, military authorities and, I’m sure, Pope Francis.
The fact that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz want to stage a protest in favor of war in our nation’s capital, which I have just come from, on my birthday makes it that much more personal.
Because I believe I was born knowing that very few wars solve anything. There have been wars that have had to be prosecuted, and were, but with great anguish and soul searching. Others have been prosecuted out of direct defense of home and hearth. Others have been entered into with great reluctance.
But for the United States, I’m having trouble coming up with one that involved pro-war protests. Correct me if I’m wrong.
So I have to ask, is it me whose thinking is scrambled, or is it them?
I recently read Erik Larson’s In the Garden of the Beast (the title is a loose translation of Tiergarten, the large park in the middle of Berlin). It is the story of the first US ambassador to Germany, who was sent there in the early 1930s particularly to try to get the new Chancellor, Adolph Hitler, to abide by the Treaty of Versailles.
Ambassador Joseph Dodd was an academic, not a diplomat. He was not part of the club that ruled the foreign service at that time. He thought he had President Franklin Roosevelt’s ear, but there were many right there in Washington who really wielded the power of foreign service.
Unsuitable as Dodd was, and as naïve about Hitler as he and his infamous daughter Martha were in their early days in Berlin, they did begin to recognize the truth about Hitler and Goering and Goebbels as friends began to go into exile or disappear. The Night of the Long Knives, during which a purge against German officials who were not loyal to Hitler took place, sealed it for the Dodds. But the ambassador’s warnings to his government went unheeded, and while we can’t say for sure whether earlier US intervention could have saved them, six million lives were lost.
So are we appeasing Iran with the treaty and will it come back to haunt us? Am I an isolationist trying to pretend that the possibility that this is the worst thing our government could do isn’t real?
No, we aren’t and I’m not.
If I compare the early 1930s in Germany to the 2000s in the US, I see much more of the insidious evil of Nazism in the very Republicans who are so eager to go to war with Iran. They have compared President Obama to Hitler, but it is they who want to keep a white supremacist ethos in this country. It is they who fear and loathe the “other” and want to keep the “other” out. It is they who have been paranoid about everything from ebola to immigrants to weapons of mass destruction. It is they who keep the death penalty going and don’t really seem to care whether the prisoner to be executed is innocent or not.
I believe I was born dreaming the world that Langston Hughes describes so beautifully. I won’t let the likes of Cruz and Trump to turn that dream into a nightmare.