Saturday, September 02, 2006

John Lennon's "Imagine" and today's war protestors

Lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine”

Imagine there's no heaven/It's easy if you try

No hell below us/Above us only sky
Imagine all the people/Living for today...
Imagine there's no countries/It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too
Imagine all the people/ Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us/And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people/Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us/And the world will live as one

I thought about the above song earlier this week when in a discussion about the Iraq war. But before I continue, let me restate briefly my view on the Iraq war, so that you know where I’m coming from in my response afterwards:

I believe that we rushed into Iraq with incomplete knowledge of what we were going to be dealing with, and without a solid plan of what we’d do once we got there. So far, we seem to be making it up on the fly. I thought that it was a mistake when it first occurred, because I don’t think we went far enough in seeking peaceful alternatives.

But of course, that’s a moot point now. We are there now, we have overturned the power structure there, and WE are now the power structure. To leave Iraq now would be disastrous, because the Iraqis are not ready yet. As poorly planned as we were going in, the Iraqis had no plan at all in transitioning from a tyranny to a democracy, so they’re learning and doing everything from scratch –especially in grasping concepts such as “self rule”. Patience and cool heads are clearly called for here, and leaving in haste will be even worse than when we came to Iraq in haste.

And yet, leaving right now is exactly what some anti-war protesters are advocating. Such an action is not only irresponsible, it is absolutely absurd. Judging by some of their statements, they believe that if we leave right now, then Iraq and the rest of the Middle East region will somehow magically become a land of peace, and that we’ll all live happy and content. They view the problem as simply “Our presence there is the problem, and the problem will be removed only when we leave.”

But leaving now would not cause some sort of “reset” button to restore things back to the way they were. Iraq now is an unstable region, and if we left, who would step in and “help” stabilize the country? Most likely, Iran – the same country that once took American hostages and held them for over a year as President Jimmy Carter looked weak and helpless as his countrymen were held there against their will.

So where does this idea that leaving Iraq will magically make the situation there become one of hope and peace? One source is songs such as John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Imagine there’s no countries. And no religion too. Imagine all the people/Living life in peace.

These anti-war protesters really seem to believe that this is all that needs to happen in Iraq for there to be peace. This assumes that human existence is a life where helping others is the default norm. However, selflessness is not the norm of our humanity. In truth, we are actually a selfish people, and because of that self-centered nature, a world with no countries and no religion would not be the Utopia that they desire – instead, it would be chaotic!

One of the reasons that we have countries and religions in the first place is precisely to help keep the peace. We need a mutually agreed upon set of laws, rules, or tenets to abide by so that we all know what to expect from others, and what to expect from ourselves. We do that to help keep the selfish sides of others and ourselves in check. To suddenly abandon all those laws, rules and tenets would plunge the world into a new Dark Age. And for what? For some delusional Lennon fantasy of living life free and happy? Not while we are on Earth, baby.

Funny thing is, Lennon says “Imagine there’s no heaven / no hell below us”. But it’s in heaven and hell that his concept of “no countries and no religions” actually takes place. Think of that: In heaven and hell, there are no countries and no religions. But of course, if someone doesn’t believe in an afterlife, then life on Earth is all that they believe that they’re going to get. Sadly then, Lennon’s dream in his song is never going to happen for them – not in their lifetime, or in anyone else’s, because we are always going to be a selfish people. Basically then, they have no chance at the kind of happiness that they seek, because the dream of a heaven on Earth is a futile fantasy.

Some of you are no doubt saying, “It’s just a song! You’re reading too much into it!” However, the anti-war protestors who want to leave right now seem to believe that things will magically revert to normal along the lines of Lennon’s song if only we would leave. I say this because the protestors usually offer nothing in return on what should be done in Iraq should we leave right now, other than having a “U.N. peacekeeping force go in to stabilize the region” (and we’ve seen how difficult that can be in Lebanon. If the U.N. can’t control a small portion of a small country, what chance do they have in a much larger country?). Don’t get me wrong: They have every right to protest the war. And as I said above, I wasn’t in favor of it, either. But if it was irresponsible for us to go in half-cocked and with guns blazing, then it will be even more irresponsible to drop everything and leave right now.

I agree that Lennon’s song is just a song – but its message resonates with many people who, for the most part, have their hearts in the right place. Wanting peace is good and noble – however wanting peace at all costs is not only shortsighted and foolish, it can actually be counterproductive. True peace can only come from hard work and clear heads working together.

It is my hope and prayer that Iraq will one day be a free and self-governing democratic nation – but that’s not going to happen overnight, and it certainly won’t happen with our abrupt departure from them. If we want the Iraqis to one day be responsible for themselves, then we have to set the example by being responsible for our actions right now, and we do that by helping restore that country’s stability and seeing this job through to the end. That’s the only path to a peace there that will last.

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