On September 21, 1987, then-President Ronald Reagan addressed the United Nations General Assembly with a message about world peace. I was seventeen years old and we were on the brink of nuclear war. That threat came to an end when the United States and Russia found common ground. We all love our children. We've lived through two world wars, where each atrocity was only matched by the next, and nuclear annihilation was a reality. And this simple principle kept strangers from killing one another. Here is my favorite excerpt of his speech:
“In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”
Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union respectively, were able to hash out in three days in December of 1987 what some civilizations could not solve in centuries of conflict. It has brought me to tears to think of what was accomplished by these two men. And it should you too.
Peace Begins At Home
I have family members who don't speak to one another as a result of grudges that have been passed on from my parents' generation to mine, then onto the next. Petty sibling rivalries that began in the 1980's by a bunch of thirty-somethings have extended two more generations. No kidding. My siblings and cousins continue to hold grudges fueled by misguided loyalties rooted in comically ridiculous squabbles.
You've heard that ‘Seinfeld' is a show about nothing? My family's feud is about less than nothing. Grandma died without a penny to her name, and people were fighting over her junk. One sibling said the wrong thing at the wrong time at a family gathering. Somebody else worked for family and the boss/employee relationship soured things. These are all things that don't matter in the big picture. Each member has a different account of any one of a dozen incidents that have transpired over a period of thirty years, but none of them warrant the hate and indifference that have developed and festered.
I'm not here to indict my family, whom I love dearly, but quite the opposite. My family is every family. Not one single difference that transpires between family members (barring rare cases of molestation, murder, or grand theft) should form a rift between you and a family member. If you love your children, I recommend you raise them in a world where people don't hate one another. Not over grandma's junk. Not over political ideology. Not over nuthin'.
Dr. Seuss For the Win
One of my favorite stories from childhood was ‘The Sneetches' by Dr.Seuss. While everyone else gushed over the wisdom of ‘Green Eggs and Ham' (as great as it was), it was just a story about trying food. “The Sneetches”, however, was about living peacefully with your fellow man. This appealed to me then and it still appeals to me now. In case you're not familiar, “The Sneetches” is the story of a society comprised of fictional beings called ‘Sneetches'. Some sneetches had stars on their bellies and some did not. The star-bellied sneetches experienced luxuries that the ones without stars did not. Besides the star, there was no significant difference between sneetches. However, that did not stop generations of sneetches from excluding one another from prosperity, peace and harmony. Until a traveling salesman came into town named Sylvester McMonkey McBean, and he possessed a star-making machine that could add or remove from any sneetch that wishes. The story ends with so many sneetches running themselves through the machine that, after a while, no sneetch could remember what their differences actually were. At the end of the story, McBean packed up his machine and left town. When I was younger, I saw him as the villain because he rfited the their discourse. But now, it has become clear that he was the, in fact, hero of the fable. Yes, he profited from these fools. But he used good old capitalism to level the playing field and teach a valuable life lesson: we are all the same.
Real Life Application
After the Cold War, in the 1990's, the former Yugoslavia split up into several territories, all claiming their independence. One leader called for a period of ‘ethnic cleansing' where believers of a minority religion would be slaughtered. Others merely shunned citizens of fellow citizens. territories, although they were once brothers and sisters. On a personal note, my father-in -law escaped communist Yugoslavia in 1960 and settled in Canada. The friends he had when we arrived, to him, were all ‘Yugoslavs'. Even during the turmoil in their homeland, they were all still countrymen. Even fifty years later, their personal relationships were not affected. No matter what the politics back home looked like. In 1998 NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) translated “The Sneetches” into Serbo-Croatian and distributed a half a million copies to children in that region. Wow! Now, that is a start.
The lesson is… no matter what happened with grandma's junk… no matter who owes Uncle Reggie $500 bucks… and no matter what dipshit in Washington you voted for… “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
Now, I'm going to finish my coffee.