The highest quest of the most powerful nation in the world must be the active search for peace on Mother Earth. We speak for the grandparents now, for the ones who have seen the world go from world war to a time of relative peace and back toward a growing hostility and violence, directed particularly now against innocent non-combatants.
Never has the world witnessed such astounding disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and between those whom have access to opportunity and a balanced education steeped in tolerance and those whom do not. Wars of occupation can be explosive, and may at times be necessary, but growing localized resistance and violence can result as a general trend worldwide. Confusion and hatred are difficult not to notice for their intensity in some regions. A clearly much-heightened extremism in the expression of viewpoints - bigoted fundamentalism - feeds the call for violence of every kind. While the world has fought extremely bloody and difficult wars before, the kind of deep schisms now facing the global community, and the way major world leaders chose to address these problems - will cast either a reasonable or a horrendous future for our generations. Realistically, however, given the tendency of nationalistic and religious hatreds to ignorantly perpetuate themselves and for expensive wars to bring ruin to people and country, we must proceed with great care and caution if we are to create a safer, more secure, and peaceful future for our grandchildren.
Writing today from the perspective of grandparents, we submit that peace is the requirement, in family and country, for prosperity and a good life. We submit that the voice of grandparents is hugely important to human society. In many Native cultures, the collective voice of grandmothers could set the attitude of a whole community, even whole peoples. The men leaders whom the English labeled "chiefs" were the grandfathers and great-grandfathers of large extended family clans and tribal nations - so that their thinking and strategies had to always address the responsibility of guarding the lives of those they naturally loved. Grandparents who ponder the future of their grandchildren always wish for a less violent, more prosperous world.
There is a need to understand the recent history. We are living in a time of diminishing resources, growing human populations, a deteriorating climate, and appalling hoarding by the few to the detriment of the many. It is an equation that leads inexorably to problems. The threat to the balance of people and planet is as great as it has ever been. A time of relative peace - the 1990s - a decade of creative prosperity, at the same time witnessed a tremendously squandered opportunity to begin the building of a true and long-lasting balance. The opportunity was for the wealthy nations of the world (U.S. and Western Europe) to strengthen their commitment to international development and to devise a proper and fair method for all nations to be able to feed and house their peoples in decent measure of fulfillment. This opportunity was not seized. Instead, the opposite occurred. A lopsided international trade and commerce between the powerful, industrialized nations of the North and the weakened and largely depleted nations of the South became the offered solution. The wolf of rapaciousness often hides under the sheep's mantle of capitalism. This time it went for the throat of poor and seriously indebted nations. This mayhem happened under the mantle of trade agreements and global institutions almost completely controlled by self-interested corporations with little or no accountability to democratic political systems and much less to the lives and needs of the regular family people who toil under them. Much of the resultant hardship was inflicted upon indigenous peoples.
Added to the problems of the Middle East, where Western powers have a history of intruding in Muslim affairs for over 100 years, the misery resulting from constant disregard has brought forth great hostility. Seen first and now escalating in the Middle East, the hostility is also increasing in Latin America, where the economies of whole countries have been devastated by the practices that followed the lofty language of the trade agreements.
While the forces of state repression and religious fundamentalism became more prominent, more brutal and exceedingly difficult to fight violence became practiced by disaffected people who turned increasingly to terrorist practices. A constant diet of misery and war creates a climate of violent behavior that cuts among all communities of people. It impacts young people in particular. Delinquent behavior among young people has become the norm in too many places - a violence of mind that can be as deadly as war and even more profoundly destructive. Neighborly values, positive family practices of good care of the young by teaching the strong principles of honesty, sincerity and caring for community are difficult to sustain. Where they exist as a conscious culture, family and tribal resilience must be very strong to resist the antagonistic pressures of today's polemic discourse.
Force is necessary in combating terrorism, Pope John Paul II wrote recently, but it has to be accompanied by "a courageous and lucid analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks." The fight against terrorism has to aim at "eliminating the underlying causes of situations of injustice which frequently drive people to more desperate and violent acts ..."
We agree. And in this season of renewal, as the snows and the weather generally signal a period of rest for the earth, as fields and woods are covered in white snow, which is, as the old people would say, "the blanket of Mother Earth," we wish for all families the strength of peace of mind, of home as a place of respite, respect, love, mutual support and growth. These are elements all humans share and it behooves world leaders to begin from some such human perception as they consider the future, not only as statesmen, generals or corporate CEOs, but as the grandfathers and grandmothers of our common generations.
In this season of renewal and, for many, of re-commitment to various faiths and spiritual paths, we remember always the most loving elders of the generations past, the ones who were patient with the young, who did not abuse or agitate children, but who with patience and caring would teach skills and inculcate in their grandchildren the appreciation of life and good sentiment and the expression of the "good mind," always the key to peace in all human relations.