It has been a genuine honor and privilege to walk through Powerful Peace with you to this point. I hope this journey has been more than enjoyable for you…I hope it’s been meaningful. And I hope you will seriously consider my request to let this be the beginning of dialogue, not the end of a book. I hope it will be the beginning of some small changes you choose to raise the quality of your life, and the lives of those you encounter.
While there’s breath, there’s hope. What, if anything, will you do with the gifts you’ve been given?
In the end, we find ourselves in the beginning. The brief introduction that is this book is only the first taste of the potential of Powerful Peace. If and how balanced peacemaking continues is up to you and me, together. Powerful Peace will grow through reading, and sharing, and doing…or it will not grow at all.
I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others….
All that lasts is what you pass on.
The rest is smoke and mirrors.
This is Allem, a contract cleaner from Bangladesh. He took great care of us in Iraq.
Allem doesn’t chase after glory and excitement, yet he’s a real hero to me because he does what it takes
to provide for his family. (Pay no mind to the bandage on my brow—it was from a tragic soccer accident.)
I promised you up front that we would examine the “reactive and sometimes unnecessary roots of hate,” and that you would come to better understand how “those roots strangle all involved.” Have we done that? I hope so. I hope at least one or two of the dozens of stories in Powerful Peace have helped you look at conflict differently. Most bonfires begin with a tiny spark, so let us let peace “go viral.” And the highest praise I’ve ever heard on these concepts came from my editor’s wife, Virginia, when she first told him, “I never thought of it that way before.”
We’ve also explored the paradox of “necessary violence” with “ruthless restraint,” and the principle that balancing courage with compassion applies in the boardroom, in the bedroom, and on the battlefield. I’d like to wind down this book with a last word, one of my favorites, which you may have noticed tucked here and there throughout the chapters: Hope.
One of my many friends from the wider world is a highly-placed officer in the Iraqi Army. Khudaier and I sometimes chatted over fruit juice on the way ahead in Iraq. Like many of his peers, he has invaluable insight on problems and solutions regarding the struggle. Also like many of his peers, his recommendations (the other-than-combat efforts we all need for a long-term “win”) sometimes compete with more immediate U.S./Western needs for force protection and combat readiness. Yet he and I contend that this apparent “competition” between national and international resources and goals is not as real as is imagined…or rather, is not imagined. I contend that “our” way ahead as a species depends less on struggling over crusts and more on exercising all our imagination muscles to make more pie.
He insisted, and I agreed, that more trust between our forces was urgently needed to improve our effectiveness. Yet hope, we concluded, is the most urgent commodity we can offer to the men and women of that ancient, noble and profoundly historic land. There are many other essential ingredients as described throughout Powerful Peace; most of them are merely steps along the path to hope.
Another friend, Jamal, lost his family home, lifelong friends and fiancée when he was identified as an American supporter. He also lost hope, although when I first met him, his confidence was unshakeable. Barely out of his teens, Jamal had left a university computer science program and hired on to interpret Arabic for U.S. forces. I asked him why he had been willing to leave the sure thing of school to enter the dangerous world of military operations. He said he had a vision for his country. He had a beautiful girlfriend, and they were in love. She would become his wife once he had enough money. And once “we” (Coalition and Iraqis) inevitably stabilized the internal strife, his country would need strong, intelligent people to step forward and lead it to prosperity. Wise beyond his years, he understood that those who were in the proper positions when stability arrived would be well-placed to assume those leadership roles. He would become a Big Man and make a difference for the people of his nation.
Jamal and other interpreters were sometimes unnecessarily kept waiting outside the ECP guard shack for several hours while their credentials were “verified” by U.S. soldiers, some of whom were literally still in their teens. (These interpreters all carried official photo identification cards, but “slow rolling” a customer is the questionable indulgence of petty tyrants the world over.) During the same assignment I met weekly with another Iraqi general officer who repeatedly expressed frustration that “your men are disrespecting my officers.” Jamal’s was not an isolated case.
(You have to understand that I’m not indicting all American soldiers here. American soldiers are Americans, like me, and I’m damn proud of my country and my countrymen. I also understand that we’re not perfect. Sadly, the kids who helped this unfortunate situation go badly probably only did what they’d been taught by older soldiers…who had learned from others before that. And the problem of disrespect to foreigners is by no means limited to U.S. forces. I’ve personally been disrespected by some of the best; in Russia, Thailand, Kuwait and a couple dozen other nations. But remember—we can only change what we control, and we only control ourselves.)
During the time Jamal and I were at that installation, local insurgents would periodically cruise by with the traffic to scope out the gates; on one of these passes, inevitably, one of the neighbor boys recognized Jamal as he sat outside the entrance for hours. Word got back to the insurgents in the neighborhood. His father received an anonymous phone call that their home would be firebombed to kill Jamal’s younger siblings. The father fled with his family.
Jamal’s future father-in-law heard next, and declared that his daughter would never marry a traitorous “pig” who worked for the invaders. Jamal’s own childhood friends shunned him on his final visit home, so he only learned of his imminent danger through a remote grapevine.
It saddens me almost to tears to remember that promising young man, with such incredible talent, hope and energy; and the hopeless, vacant young man who returned to our base after that weekend. In our final conversation before I moved to another location in Iraq, I half-jokingly asked him, “You’re not going to become an insurgent, are you?”
He paused, then said quietly, “I don’t know.”
This was a preventable disaster in one young person’s life. Not all can be avoided, of course. Automobiles and airplanes will continue to crash. Disease will continue to strike. But if I can get across only one idea through all of this, it would be that we can easily harm others through minor, selfish choices. A little thought goes a long way, even if it’s only to reduce potential backlash against ourselves.
Jamal had lost hope through a radically narrowed range of possibilities for his future, but I believe hope can be restored as long as we draw breath. Our species has survived plague, famine, barbarian hordes, Crusades, and World Wars. I imagine it has sometimes been difficult to hold onto hope. Yet it survives, and it can be revived, for some of the hundreds, thousands, and millions of decent people who can’t take their children to the market with them for fear of car bombs…or simply can’t feed their children because they can’t afford food. At the purely individual level, I want women who feel hopelessly trapped in abusive relationships to rediscover hope, as well as young people who feel too fat or too skinny to be of any worth. The same goes for men of the “wrong” race or class in societies that traditionally suppress their opportunities. In my own selfish way, I want human beings to be valued universally. I’m telling you now: this will bring a corresponding element of security. The world has changed in many, many ways. Shame on us if we don’t keep up with history, look at one another in the best light possible, and invite the best from all. Each individual’s increase benefits the whole. Shame on us if we participate in reducing ourselves.
Hope is something that can be given, although it can never be forced. A person cannot be “convinced” of something against his will. Hope can be inspired, by example, as when the United States of America still inspires the hope of a better life for millions who live in tragic poverty or lawlessness. Hope can be revealed, in the genuine, consistent effort of outreach from those who have it to those who don’t. Once we grasp hope firmly in our hands, we begin to perceive the extraordinary future we can create.
The energy of hope can produce startling results. In the book Let’s Roll (Tyndale House Publishers, 2002), we read of true heroes, doomed passengers on a hijacked aircraft on September 11, 2001. They knew something very bad was going to happen with their plane. They realized there might not be anything they could do about it…but they hoped they could. They hoped they could, and they acted.
These heroes saw no gain in hiding amid the herd and praying not to be the next one culled. They dared to act in the hope of stopping terrorists with their own hands. They succeeded. Powered by this hope, they saved hundreds or thousands of other innocent lives. They died, yes—they successfully stopped terrorists and they still died, because fighting to defend involves daring and risk; some always pay the price for the rest.
Will you dare to hope with me? Will you dare to question your assumptions about people in the next house, or on the next continent? I also said in the front of the book that it’s intended to offer a voice to all, to open a dialogue. That dialogue begins among the Peace Hawks, which you can join (no costs) at SEALofPeace.com. You get your voice there, whether you’re sitting in Baghdad, Paris, Capetown, or with me in Washington, DC. As a Peace Hawk, you’ll learn about and join with organizations like the Middle East Peace project at MEPeace.org, where Eyal Raviv and our friends host an ongoing dialogue among all the stakeholders of the Israel-Palestine crisis. Engagement matters. They prove it in real time. We engaged citizens will no longer sit by and wait for heads of state to solve all the problems within or between our societies. Here’s a dirty little secret: they can’t.
As a Peace Hawk, you’ll also be able to link to the “Enough Project” of John Prendergast and Don Cheadle, at EnoughMoment.org. Click in to look around at the stories from film superstars as well as compassion superstars – see where you can make a difference!
Hope is our energy; imagination and action are our tools. Let these closing words be the opening salvo on your lifelong contribution to practical peace—step away from the sofa and call up a friend to offer some heartfelt Dignity and Respect, or reflect on what sections of Powerful Peace struck you most…and what it is inside you that may have motivated this response. You might even start your own reading group, or a local chapter of Peace Hawks, to spread the ideas in your community. There are 48 topical chapters in the book, not counting this one on Hope. How would you like to organize a study of one topic each week throughout the year with your church, mosque, temple or coffee clutch?
Before his private world imploded, Jamal made one other comment that will stay with me forever: “If more Americans thought like you, there’d be less wars in the world.” Well, I doubt I’ll actually ever prevent a war, but I do believe the concepts of Powerful Peace can empower each of us to reduce conflict within the scope of our own authority and influence. Of course this goes for my American friends, with our substantial international impact, and also to my Afghan, British, Canadian, French, Iraqi, Jordanian, Kenyan, Russian, Uzbek, Venezuelan and other friends as well. Together we have the power to make a difference. Say it with me: we have the power to make a difference. This is the start of something big.
Finally: in the beginning, I asked that you “not keep this book.” I asked you to “give it away—perhaps to a young person just setting out to make a mark in the world, or to your neighbor, or to a soldier trying to make sense of his painful experiences…perhaps to your senator at her next public event.”
I really mean that. If these ideas make sense to you, will you share them with others? They say selling a book is much more about word-of-mouth than about formal advertising; I say selling an idea is even more dependent on each one reaching one. If every reader shared this book just one time, it would double the spread of this message around the world. It will take willing and active individuals to make meaningful change and protect all our children. I promise you, I’ll keep trying. Will you accept the challenge and do the same?
I dare you to.
NOTE: Now that you’ve reached the end of this part of the Powerful Peace journey, don’t forget that you can order hard copies to read and share with friends, loved ones…and in some cases, enemies. Just click in to SEALofPeace.com/book