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December has been a momentous month and it’s not even Christmas yet. But much has happened that makes me wonder about whether we’re properly living the true spirit of Christmas.
A death and a death’s anniversary squarely put the issue of war and peace before us yet again. Imagine that at Christmas time, as Christians celebrate the birth of…who? The Prince of Peace? That’s right. Not the Prince of War and Guns.
On Dec. 8, we remembered the troubled, successful, and finally tragic life of one John Lennon, a “Beatle” who loudly proclaimed the message of peace from one of the greatest, celebrity-inspired bully pulpits anyone ever had.
In the early 1970s, John Lennon wasn’t just another person against the Vietnam War. His influence was so feared that the Nixon Administration tried hard to deport him. Yet he bravely continued to say that the war was wrong.
We sometimes hear his message in a Christmas song, “Happy Christmas (War is Over).” But we don’t hear it enough. And many mourn the loss of this intelligent and thoughtful man who - if he were alive today at 70 - would still be an active, vital voice for peace. Imagine how artfully he would have protested that awful war in Iraq.
On Dec. 13, we were saddened to hear of the death of a man described as one of the last “liberal interventionists.” Richard Holbrooke was a Democrat, a man who served Democratic presidents in various top foreign policy posts.
Holbrooke might have been Secretary of State in a second Obama term; but it wasn’t meant to be. After surgery for a torn aorta, Holbrooke was in critical condition for nearly 24 hours before he died. His last reported words were a shock.
The special presidential envoy was taken to the hospital where his doctor told him to relax. According to press reports, Holbrooke then replied that he couldn’t relax because he had to worry about Afghanistan and Pakistan all the time.
Fine, the doctor said, I’ll worry about it for you. Holbrooke then said, “Stop the war in Afghanistan,” his last known words before he was wheeled off to surgery.
Now we all know that’s not the current policy of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. So, someone on Holbrooke’s staff felt the need, a day or so later, to come out with a lame and meely-mouthed denial of any idea that Holbrooke really meant his statement literally.
Is it just me, or is “stop the war” pretty clear? Anyone confused about what that means? Sure, it might have been a sarcastic or even half-joking remark, but it might also have been a thought borne out of the man’s recent reflections on a conflict he was losing belief in, just as so many other people have.
Certainly, we should wonder why this man said such a thing on the very edge of his own death, given his prominence in perpetuating that war. Again, imagine (a John Lennon song) thinking about peace at Christmas time? What have we liberals come to? Even “liberal interventionists.”
Yet, peace was so clearly the policy of the man (and God) whose birth we celebrate at this time of year. That’s why Scripture says, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God.”
As all of us have an enjoyable Christmas holiday (hopefully), let us, even in the midst of our families, remember the “peace” in Prince of Peace. And let us look forward to that day when all swords really are turned into plowshares.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.