Reflecting on Our Addiction to War

The following article was written by Joe Weston three years ago.  His words still ring true, and the "Heartwalk" he has pioneered is still needed.

Today is March 19, [2013] – ten years after the United States and its allies invaded Iraq. I think it is hopeful that there are those who are criticizing the choice to illegally invade a country under false pretenses.

However, the verbiage used to discuss this issue reveals to me how entrenched we are in seeing the world through the eyes of war and viewing the world from the perspective of good-bad, protagonist-enemy, victim-perpetrator.

The most frequent question that is asked on all the news shows about the Iraq War is, “Was it worth it?” What they don’t see is that asking this question is a luxury and shows a level of arrogance. There is no other country on this planet that could ask that question. If another country had invaded Iraq as we did, the leaders of that country would have most likely already been put on trial at the World Court for war crimes.

This shows how untouchable the United States is. How luxurious it is for us to sit back and, without being held accountable for our actions, have a rhetorical discussion on whether illegally going to war was worth it. How easy to theoretically evaluate a choice that unnecessarily damaged so many lives and wasted so much money, as well as deepened fear, hatred and suspicion in the world.

This can only make sense if we see the world through the eyes of war. Until we shed this lens that covers our view of the world, things will never change.

I saw this very clearly while leading Heartwalks in various US cities. A Heartwalk is a peace march where we walk through the streets of a city on a route that is shaped like

People in a heartwalk
People in a heartwalk

a heart. We were not “anti” anything; we were “for” peace, inclusiveness and open discussion with those who are different.

As we walked through the streets, I observed that when the bystanders would see us coming, they would immediately tense up while they read our picket signs to see what our “cause” was. They were preparing themselves, based on what our message was, to either be “for” us or “against” us. I saw the level of tension and suspicious they had as they went through the process of deciding if we were their enemy or ally. When it became clear that we were not against anything but for something, and when they realized that we were not perpetuating the cycle of “us-them”, they ALL relaxed, smiled and cheered us on.

We have been taught to survive and feel safe in the world by determining if others are either our allies or our enemies.

If we want to create a world where there can be lasting peace, then it is essential for us to break this cycle and seek out common ground. We are all human beings trying to find happiness, trying to alleviate suffering and trying our best to be understood.

While watching CNN one day I saw a report on the conflict with Israel and Palestine. During this report they showed a poll asking people the following three questions:

  • Do you sympathize with the Palestinians?
  • Do you sympathize with the Israelis?
  • Do you sympathize with neither?

If we want to create the necessary shift in breaking through our addiction to war, we have to ask a new question:

  • Do you sympathize with both?

Notice this old habitual pattern of opposition as it arises and choose to make a different choice – a choice that calls us to a higher level of courage and commitment to connect with those who are different in order to find new solutions to our current problems.

Joe will be leading a retreat at Easton Mountain, The Path of the Heartwalker:  Mastering Respectful Confrontation, May 12-15.