Searching For Peace
On June 13, Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, spoke at the First Unitarian church about military and patriotic programs for humanists. Vietnam Era Veteran Wayne Wilson started the program by advocating for peace and an end to war. Jason reiterated those values, denouncing imperialistic, commercial, and religious bases for war and supporting only humanitarian justifications. Jason called on humanists to support military personnel not to support war but to ensure war is a last resort only to stop the worst expressions of humanity.
Jason also advocated for supporting troops who very often are young people joining the military or joining conflicts with limited understanding of the larger political contexts. Support by humanists is a path to ensuring military personnel understand proper ethical conduct, refuse unethical, unlawful orders, and speak up to stop atrocities. And these ethical veterans become the most fervent and effective advocates for peace.
The focus of Jason’s talk was to highlight the entanglement of pro-American and anti-atheist sentiment, and how that can be mitigated. The “Christian Nation” sentiment and the “godless communist” sentiment are widespread. These narratives are disproven by highlighting that there are atheists in foxholes. Knowing the military stories and making sure the local community knows these stories can erode anti-atheist sentiment. We don’t need to buy into toxic nationalism to show we are Americans and we serve the nation.
Aside from knowing and telling our stories, we can participate in military parades, do joint events with local military at Hill Air Force Base and University ROTC programs, and provide humanist materials and service to local VA clinics. Veterans of Foreign Wars and other military membership organizations are sorely in need of humanist and progressive ideas and may be open to joint events. These are just examples of ways to reach out to the local community, to show we have American values they may appreciate, and in that way, ensure peaceful and humanist military values.
More information on Jason, the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, and military outreach at www.militaryatheists.org
Humanists of Utah members have always been proponents of Peace. Here is an article from our April 1991 newsletter reporting a presentation given by Robert Goff who was, according to his March 1997 obituary, written by Flo Wineriter, always devoted to the problems of humanity made a significant improvement in many areas of life. His primary cause was working to end the hostilities among peoples and nations by supporting ideas and organizations that promote peaceful solutions to problems. He was active in the United Nations Organization and in the World Federalist. He participated in peace tours of Russia and Cuba, picketed the U.S. Atomic facility in Nevada, and wrote dozens of Letters to the Editors urging peace talks between all nations threatening to settle their difference with bullets rather than ballots. He also took an active role in seeking interracial understanding and respect for cultural diversity. He was an early advocate of Drivers Education for High School students in Utah and helped to shape and enact legislation making Drivers Ed mandatory for teens getting their first driver’s license.
Bob Goff was an exemplary citizen and an outstanding member of the Unitarian-Universalist Society and the Humanists of Utah. The world is a better place because of his efforts, and we are the beneficiaries of his devotion to improving the human condition.
Dreaming: Peace With Justice
These remarks are mine, are not original, are a result of much reading, listening, asking questions of friends, even tiny bits of thinking. I have concentrated on goals rather than means of reaching these goals. Since there is little unanimity, and many alternatives, I am calling this path my “Dream for a Peace with Justice,” as peace alone is not enough.
Back in 1945, the United Nations grew from a dream into a reality. I was present at that historic San Francisco gathering. In my dream of a peace with justice, I envision a greatly strengthened United Nations truly functioning as a world government, as was that dream of a half century ago.
My emphasis is on peace with justice. Mere non-shooting is not enough; peace in my vision is positive.
Justice will require change–major change–in the way we think, in our lifestyles, in the way we interact with other people and societies, and our planet.
Peace with Justice means that there shall be no more billionaires in the Middle East–or the world–when so many millions have little or no material comfort of their own. The bounty of the region must be shared among all peoples of the region. The gap between rich and poor must be substantially narrowed.
· The United Nations (or its successor) must be the dominant controlling force in international politics, much stronger than any nation. The UN must control all international military forces, including raising, training and deployment of all troops, and the manufacture and possession of all military munitions. In the transition process, all countries including the United States, the Soviet Union, and others, shall transfer control of their weapons and munitions factories to control of the U.N. Each nation would be authorized to maintain a national emergency relief force capable of assistance during natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes. The U.N. would supervise the removal and disposition of all military type weapons, and demobilization of excess military troops and material.
· Five nations, including the United States, will have to give up their veto power in the Security Council.
· The United States should pay up promptly all of its arrears to the U.N.
· The United States should reaffirm its adherence to the decisions of the World Court. In the process, it should accept the decision against it in the case of mining Nicaraguan harbors, and pay the fine levied against us by that Court
· An international Court for individual international criminals needs to be established.
· An international code of conduct must be established for multinational corporations.
Far reaching as these changes may be, there is even a more far reaching change that everyone of us must consider making, that from the unrestrained growth concept of society, to a sustainable society. This may be a new concept to many; yet, it is as old as human society. In my opinion, it is an integral part of a world peace with justice. You say it’s too Utopian? That’s why I have called my comments a dream, a dream of what could be when peace with justice would be achieved in this global village of ours.
Here is an excerpt from our October 2001 newsletter published in the wake of heinous terrorist attack of September 11, 2001:
A Plea For Peace
We are moved by the alarming news and crisis our country is facing. This is a great nation founded in the belief that “all men are created equal” and that we are the “land of the free.” May each of us have the strength to assist in every way possible to help and comfort those who are suffering, hurting, and in fear.
Our nation is one of justice and due process and we seek humbly for wisdom, constraint, and patience as we search to bring to justice those responsible for these acts of terrorism.
May we reach out to all those affected by this tragedy, providing refuge for those who lost security, strength to those who have been weakened, and peace to those in turmoil.
HoU Chapter Member
Human population growth is, in my mind, the most difficult issue to deal with. When I was born in 1948, the world population was about 2.5 billion. Now that number is closer to 7.7 billion. An app on my cell phone shows that the current earth population shows a net population growth today at 221,050 and counting, plus a population growth this year at over 41 million so far. All the efforts we make to mitigate the harm we do to this planet will be diminished by an ever-increasing population. The refusal of humans to place any restrictions on reproduction, like for instance, only replacing yourself (two per couple), is why I think it’s the hardest problem of all.
That’s kind of depressing, but we still need to continue to do what we can to force changes that will be beneficial to the planet. Someone said that if the earth could speak, it would ask for somebody to please do something about this horrible skin disease called humanity. Saying something like, please help me, they drill holes in me, they dig tunnels, they scrape off my skin, they pave me over, they dump all sorts of crap in my waters and air, they set off nuclear weapons, please help. Funny, but disturbingly true.
Recently I attended a presentation given by Utah State University entitled Knowledge to improve Utah’s Waterscape. This is one in a series called Research Landscapes. They had a couple dozen handouts about various research projects, like Improving the Understanding and Prediction of Climate, The future of the Colorado River, Optimizing Use Of Agriculture Water, to name just a few. Their web site is (researchlandscapes.usu.edu).
Optimizing the use of agricultural water is one of the subjects I am somewhat familiar with. As an undergraduate student at the University of Utah, I did a research paper that was a critical analysis of the Bonneville Unit of the Central Utah Project and its environmental impact statement. While researching this paper I learned that approximately 80% of the water consumed by the United States is used for irrigation and farmland. Half of this water is lost by way of evaporation, transpiration, water loving plants growing on the banks of canals and irrigation ditches, and especially loss into the bed of irrigation waterways. There seems to be a consensus that not enough is being done to mitigate these issues, and of course, the cost of the changes. Regardless of climate change these water saving measures should be taken as part of the overall efforts to mitigate human impact and conserve water.
Next time I think I’ll write about the edge of the cryosphere and how it is one of the places where you actually can observe climate change.