There are so many experts, and I am not one, that can tell us in great detail the origin of these violent conflicts. They can describe the contours and tell us about the inter-group relations that help us make sense of this violence.
My studies at the "School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution" emphasizes the analysis. We need analysis. We need help making sense of this world. Yet each day, after a few articles and videos, I surrender. I feel I can never know enough about each conflict to unravel it. I end up appreciating more about my own life, realizing how precious my freedom is and how grateful I am to have my loved ones around me and well
I count these blessings and I make phone calls. After a couple hours of this, I want to go to the "Resolution Room." I'm not sure where it is, but that's the room I'd like to enter. Solutions.
Not fix its...not band-aids...a space that stimulates thousands of ideas. I don't know how to get to the 200,000 people in Gaza or help Jews around the world feel safe. But I'm eager to discuss with others how to do this.
We survived two world wars, the plague and 80s fashion. Surely there must be an answer to this too. I mean if we can make a bodysuit for paraplegics...
Seinfeld has this funny routine about this. He says "You know, we never should have gone to the moon because now people say...'If we can go to the moon we can solve this.' "
He's right. All the solutions we have found kind of kills our excuses for giving up on solving anything before us now. I believe that every problem has a solution. I believe that is a universal law of some sort.
We think "who am I to have a solution to this? who would listen to me anyway? what if I am wrong? what if I get shot in the process?"
I suppose all that is possible. Maybe you don't have the answer, no one will listen, you are wrong and you will get shot. But, what if just one of those is untrue? Then would it be worth a try?
I wonder why the crisis room in the White House is called "The Situation Room" rather than the "Resolution Room." The name kind of lets folks off the hook.
(Incidentally, I lost a ring in that room or just outside the door and they wouldn't let me go back and get it. Small sore spot..)
Anyway, off to Paris about to interview Holocaust survivors to talk about making peace with the past...but I think the conversation will turn to the recent attacks on Synagogues. In the words of French historian Henri Rousso, this is indeed a past that cannot find its place. I wanted to place more of my dissertation squarely in the past, but I cannot. It's in the present. Rather than just bemoaning..I want to invite everyone to the resolution room.
Not yet...I need to spend the next three weeks listening...then we'll see.
When your Middle East peacemaker friends start to doubt whether peace is possible, it's disconcerting.
This week, even those I know most committed to the a peaceful and prosperous future for the region have started to recoil a bit.
And if the peacemakers and conflict resolvers feel this way, you can imagine the doubts of those never really convinced by peace in the first place.
For this reason, I cut my run short today, sprinting home to say the following...
Giving Up 500 Yards From the Finish Line
We know that most people, and often we ourselves, give up right before they're about to succeed. A couple years ago, I watched the Paris Marathon and was astonished by the number of people who collapsed right before the finish line. In fact, it's such a common phenomena, a number of race staff wait a few hundred yards away to help "carry" people across the finish line.
How is this possible? There's no way you can run that many miles and not make 500 more yards.
Can you think of a time you have done this? A time in which you hesitate right before you're about to :
make the sale, apply for the grant, speak to the beautiful woman, ask for the raise...
Why do we do this? We doubt.. we're afraid..we're hiding in some way... we feel we cannot take one more step..or in the case of peace (or love), one more disappointment is just too much. I suspect this is how current murders and kidnappings feel to those who have dedicated their lives to resolution for the region.
Let's say, just for fun, that resolution is just steps away.
The World Looks to You
Yes, maybe it's time to change the strategy, but you're the leaders. Right now, millions of people are eating breakfast watching the news; they doubt. They have lost their certainty...and unless leaders can hold on to a bigger vision, they will follow whomever seems most certain. Who would you rather they listen to?
They are looking to you. Now is the time to push forward. Afraid of being wrong? Afraid of looking bad? Honestly, if we all die, no one will say "Oh, that peacemaker, he sure was wrong." And if so, who cares?
Conflict Resolution as an Extreme Sport
This is an extreme sport...there are people with so much certainty about the righteousness of their position they will kill or be killed. Most conflict resolvers and peacemakers will not go to those extremes. Nor do they need to, but they DO need that level of commitment.
I believe, the work is finding the place deep within you that believes in human flourishing more than the others believe in power, fear, and violence.
You must be MORE certain about your purpose than they are with theirs. Conflict resolving is an extreme sport for this reason.
A friend of mine, a 8 time national karate champion, taught me this week about the power of this level of alignment during competition. If the opponent shakes your core you cannot win.
Now, not that conflict resolution is a competition, but I think we can learn from competition sports and professional athletes.
Peacemakers have to master their psychology and physiology- toughen up and do whatever it takes to reconnect with their deepest knowing.
There is Always Choice
Of course no one knows what will happen. An atomic bomb could go off and poof- game over. But there is always choice with how we choose to play the game.
I'm working with a bright and deeply engaged high school student on a paper about the Warsaw Uprising. Through his research, he has discovered the incredible way in which the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto united. They knew death was inevitable, but they wanted to choose how they died. We both have become so moved by this courage...and their ability to hold off the Germans for over month.
"We always have choice," he tells me. Even in the most horrific of times.
The choice now, for peace makers and conflict resolvers, is to rethink how you want to play this next inning. You know this conflict far more than I. What I do know is that there are many many people who do not want what you want. They feel as aligned, if not more so, with their mission as you do with yours.
It is a battle of certainty and no one knows what will happen. Though I suspect, at least in numbers, there are more people on the planet pulling for peace. Guide them.
A Concluding Joke
A friend sent this to me last week... you decide if it's the future...
So, someone of astonishing piety and charity dies, and in summoned before God in heaven.
"You've lived such a kindly life," God says; "ask for anything, and I will do it."
"There are so many people afraid of flying," the man says; "please build a bridge one can drive across from the US to Europe."
God replies, "Do you have any idea what you're asking for? That would take all the building materials in the world; storms would wash over it and bring it down frequently; there would be no way to house and feed the travelers; men would lose their lives in trying to maintain it. It's impossible. Ask for anything else."
The man say, "How about peace in the Middle East?"
God replies, "Do you want that bridge three lanes or six?"