A Writing of Peace
By Wayne Baltz

(This is a piece I composed on the morning of Monday, March 24, '03)

Five a.m., snowing hard, and the myriad flakes rushing past the porch light trigger a pang of fear: Last Wednesday morning, as the depth of snow rushed headlong toward four feet, my anxiety deepened with it. Each innocent, beautiful, delicate sculpture trapping me, burying me, and nothing I could do to stop it.

That evening a heavier sky began raining down on Baghdad. Unlike my snow, which had since ceased, the Iraqi downpour was just beginning. It exploded on impact. It reduced buildings to rubble, mangled flesh and bone, and scarred two nations and a watching world. My downpour came from Nature. Iraq’s was made in America.

I had hoped, believed it possible up until that last instant, that George Bush would seize the opportunity presented him to wage peace rather than war, to point the world down a new path, to recognize and model a new definition of strength and power. But he has chosen an old, familiar road. The world will have to wait another day for an enlightened leader.

I do not stand with this president and his administration. This is not America At War as one of the morning TV programs proclaims. I do not give my body. I do not give my spirit. I do not give me. I am an American. And while citizenship may now entail the denial of civil rights this nation once held dear, it does not affect my rights or responsibilities as a human being. At the very most, it is America-minus-one At War.

A century and a half ago, in the midst of another dark period in our nation’s history, Henry David Thoreau said, "I have lived for the last month—and I think that every man . . . capable of the sentiment of patriotism must have had a similar experience—with the sense of having suffered a vast and indefinite loss. I did not know at first what ailed me. At last it occurred to me that what I had lost was a country." I think that our country was not lost then, and is not lost now. But we are a wounded nation, and in our pain and rage our nation is willfully wounding the world.

Simply put, I do not want Iraqis to die in this needless war. And they are dying. How can I, a fellow human being, not be sympathetic? It is their country after all, their countryside and cities and homes we have invaded, their children who are being sacrificed. Whatever may eventually be "found" in Iraq, it is America’s weapons of mass destruction that have first been loosed in the Garden of Eden.

I do not want American soldiers to die, either. I want them to go back to their ships, to return to lands that welcome them. Let them watch if need be, while the inspectors inspect. Then bring them home.

Six a.m. The snow falls more heavily now, pure and powerful, silent and all encompassing. It is not American snow. It is Nature’s gift. It belongs to the world, and so do I.


Wayne Baltz is a resident of Larimer County, CO, and co-author of
"Fierce Blessing: A Journey into Alzheimer's, Compassion, and the Joy of Being"


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