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Craven: Creating Alternatives

The colorful leaves and tidy small towns of our state remind me of why we’re here. Our communities are well-kept and people care about each other. They start-up cafes; support farmers markets; and pull together for arts organizations, libraries, and schools even in the face of curtailed public funding. Sure, we struggle – and often fall short in our commitments to relieve poverty and injustice, even close to home. But in our small state, individuals and small groups of people working together do make a difference.

Despite this, events unfolding on the world stage can shake our confidence and sense of well-being. Recession and income inequality make us feel vulnerable. Climate change looms, with ever-higher stakes each year. And war erupts in distant places with new enemies and heightened ferocity on all sides. We look at our own kids - and, though it may sound clichéd - we are deeply concerned.

On the question of war, I’m increasingly convinced that the biggest enemy is militarism itself. Deadly weapons proliferate everywhere and, today, wars rage in at least 30 nations - with more than 3 million people killed in places like Somalia, Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza, Nigeria, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, Columbia, and let’s not forget the drug wars in Mexico, with more than 150,000 people have died.

Now there are new wars with fresh foes emerging in Syria and Iraq - and we have again entered the fray, despite the probability that it was our last 13 years of war in the Middle East that helped foster these new and brutal conflicts. I’m reminded of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Halberstam emerging from a meeting with intelligence analysts just days after 911 to say that the consensus was to avoid – quote - “doing what they want us to” by waging war and instead work to “dry up the swamp” of illiteracy, poverty, militarism, and inequality, especially for women and girls— that feed conflict in the oil-rich Middle East. I wonder if it’s too late.

Most wars now raging are rife with criminal behaviors on a grand scale. In an effort to advance alternatives to war, the United Nations in 1998 convened the International Criminal Court to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. 122 nations support the court, but the United States, Russia, and China don’t and this seriously hampers its effectiveness. Seems to me that we’d all be better off if this world body could play a leading role.

Most of the world’s people have creative ideas and aspirations of good will that can unite us and improve our quality of life. We urgently need our leaders to understand the importance of innovation, imagination, diplomacy, and constructive engagement. I was encouraged by the recent New York march, calling for action on climate change. And the news that Germany is now 74% free from its dependence on fossil fuels gives me further hope. It’s hard to argue it’s impractical to implement alternatives, with such a wealthy modern nation showing us the way.