Earlier today, I spent some time with a man who had grown up in Uganda during the regime of Idi Amin. During that time, one of a brutal military dictatorship, any open resistance to the political regime usually resulted in death or long-term imprisonment.
During the early 1980s, when his country was in a state of chaos, he went into Kenya as a young man, and remained there as a refugee for ten years. Then, in the early 1990s, he was able to emigrate to the United States.
His employment in the U.S. has been more-or-less bare bones. He's never had much money, and about eight years ago injured his back and has been on disability. He's gone through some hard times.
Still, his earlier years left him with some perspective. Back then, he lived through constant warfare, privation, separation, fear, and death. So for him, no matter how hard life in the U.S. may have been for him, or continues to be, he sees things a little differently.
"I live in peace," he said to me. "You must understand what that means. No military gangs trying to kill me, no constant threat of guns, no more separation from my family, no scavenging for food or wondering if I will be able to feed myself or my family. I live in peace now. I count my blessings every single day."
There are so many problems in this world of ours. Corruption, lies, ignorance, inequality of opportunity, poverty. But the worst is warfare. Warfare destroys the foundations of what makes us a civil society. Indeed, it is the negation of civil society. It destroys the things we build, it disrupts our lives, it wrecks our environment, it results in the theft of other people's rights and property. And it kills people--horribly, brutally.
It disturbs me when I read apologies for how "beneficial" war can be for the economy. That seems to be a trend these days. But war is never good, not for the economy, not for anything. It only destroys.
I want to live in peace every day. I want to appreciate that beautiful gift as my Ugandan friend does. And I do not want to support a trillion-dollar-a-year military establishment that kills people around the world, that steals money from investments that could genuinely enable us to create a beautiful and worthwhile civilization.
Let us please make the decision to live our lives with as much integrity as we can, with a commitment to truth, justice, and especially peace at all times.