In this season of peace, disappointment fills the peace movement because of President Obama.
People thought he'd be different from the cowboy who had occupied the White House. From the candidate of hope, people expected peace to at long last have a chance.
But signs are grim with the continuation of the war in Iraq, an escalation of the war in Afghanistan and U.S. hegemony. Former Vice President Dick Cheney recently labeled it "American exceptionalism." To Cheney, other people of the world bow to America. Americans bow to no one.
Cheney has criticized Obama for bowing to some heads of state. However, Obama has maintained many of the policies of the previous administration, giving the new president a Bush-lite flavor.
People working for peace have begun switching protest signs against the wars from blasting former President Bush to taking on Obama. It also is disturbing that the Patriot Act remains in force, threatening people's constitutional rights.
Obama has elected not to follow other nations in condemning land mines. The continued manufacture and use of that weaponry will maim and kill thousands of people, many of them children.
White House and other records aren't as open as promised. Obama's decision to increase by 30,000 the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan was a severe step backward for peace efforts. Obama also pulled a page from Bush's playbook, making the announcement at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point.
The capstone, however, was the speech Obama gave in Oslo, Norway, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. The Republicans and conservatives were right about this wartime president. Obama doesn't merit the honor because it doesn't appear he'll work for peace.
Obama keeps serving more Bush-lite, citing World War II as a just war. "For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."
Ira Harritt, Kansas City program coordinator with the American Friends Service Committee, believes that people in power always use the "just war" argument to rationalize any armed conflict.
It was especially distasteful that Obama quoted the great peacemakers of the 20th century — the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. Because of them, people dismantled a lot of injustices through nonviolent means in U.S. civil rights, women's rights, Chicano, gay rights and American Indian movements. Overseas people brought down oppression in Poland, the former Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc nations, China and South Africa.
Yet, the power of peace is not powerful enough in Obama's eyes, or as mighty as the military. He said: "The nonviolence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached — their faith in human progress — must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey."
Peace has to be the star that guides us now.
Here's the bottom line: "Basically we are challenging a huge economic system that profits and thrives on a military foreign policy," Harritt said. "We create our own future."
What may save us from the continuing folly of the two wars is the exhaustion of the U.S. public. The men and women doing the fighting — and their families and friends — continue to bear a terrible cost in pain and suffering and death. And more people not directly related to the military are feeling that pain, too, as more of the cost of caring for those who return is being borne by society.
Polls show more people are turning against the wars and turning more inward, wanting the U.S. to "mind its own business internationally." That's not good because America is part of the planet, whether people like it or not.
Peace is the only way to get everyone together to share the resources and the burdens of getting along. Investing in war is never the answer. Peace is.