A hope note
‘We should try to be the parents of our future rather than the offspring of our past,’ wrote philosopher Miguel de Unamuno.
I think of two historic times in my lifetime when that think-outside-the-box, imagine-a-different-future philosophy worked.
For much of my adult life, Belfast, Northern Ireland, seemed to me to be the most hopeless place on earth. Catholic and Protestant communities were armed camps. Sniper fire, riots and terrorist attacks over 30 years took more than 3,200 lives. But after 22 often-deadlocked months of negotiations, a major breakthrough ‘ largely engineered by U.S. Sen. George Mitchell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair ‘ occurred. An accord was reached May 23, 1998. For a decade now, Belfast citizens have acted like parents of their future instead of offspring of their past.
Then there’s the animosity of Egypt and Israel that goes back to the exodus of the Hebrew slaves from the land of the Pharaohs 3,000 years ago. I think of the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Not many people then guessed that Israel and Egypt might be able to live together in peace for three years, much less 30. But, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter, following two weeks of intense negotiations at Camp David, got Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to sign a peace treaty. It’s been uneasy, but for 30 years now the two ancient enemies have behaved like parents of their future instead of offspring of their past.
Desmond Morris wrote of the aggressive, warmongering aspect of human nature. But another part of our nature accomplishes extraordinary feats of restraint, dialogue, humility, forgiveness and peace. Bravo for leaders who transcend a biological penchance for war enough to imagine peace and give peace a chance.