Taking Sides?

Although I don’t feel comfortable to her opinion on the middle east conflict, still this article has some good points we can all think about and reflect on at least when it comes to conflict among ourselves.



Maha Mongi



Taking Sides?

by Marie T. Russell

Whenever there’s an argument or a controversy, it seems that we automatically take sides. Let’s face it, even as far back as the story of Adam and Eve, humans were taking sides. In some ways, every time we make a choice we are taking sides. If you choose to be a vegetarian, some people might see that as being “against” meat (and thus meat-eaters) . If you choose to be a non-smoker, then you may have a tendency to be “against” smoking (and have a lot of anger towards smoking in your presence).

It seems that we see things as black and white; this against that; good against evil; mine against yours, etc. Nowhere is this more prevalent today than in the situation in the Middle East.

War. Such a short word, not even a four-letter word, but a thousand times more powerful. A million times more hurtful than any four-letter word you might throw at someone.

War. It’s been going on for millennia. In university, my minor was history. And I recall most specifically one course that was entitled “The History of Human Conflict”. The main thing I remember is coming to a realization that war was not a current situation, or even a new one. It had been going on since the beginning of recorded history (and of course, before that). I remember asking myself, as many people do, When will we ever learn?

I used to blame wars on greedy, power-hungry people (or rulers). But then, it is always easy to blame and say that it’s “somebody else’s fault”. Perhaps we need to look deeper in people’s psyche to see where war really resides.

What is war anyway? One of Webster’s definitions is “any active hostility”. Hum. Any active hostility. So if I am angry (hostile) about someone blowing cigarette smoke in my face, then I’m at war. If I take sides in a conflict, and have “an attitude” towards the other group, I’m at war. Why even in sports when we shout degrading remarks to the other team (or the referee) and we are being “actively hostile”, we are at war.

I’ve been receiving a lot of forwarded email about the war in the Middle East… most of it taking sides. The writers are either giving reasons why Israelis are “right” in fighting the Palestinians, or giving reasons why Palestinians are in the “right”. And as in any situation, there are always two sides to every story. As far as I’m concerned, both “sides” are right and both are wrong.

But the reality of it is that while anyone is considering who’s right and who’s wrong, there’s no chance of any peace. While we’re busy trying to figure out whose “side” we should be on, we still are engaging in an “us against them” scenario, also known as war.

The only solution to any conflict, including the one in the Middle East, is to start looking at a situation from the perspective of peace, love, and balance. Every human being has the right to live in peace and in harmony with their neighbors. Maybe if we were not so concerned about taking sides, about who’s right, about who’s wrong, and more concerned about healing the wounds on all sides, then we could get a peaceful resolution.

Whose side am I on? I’m on the side of life. I’m on the side of love, respect, harmony, and peace. I’m on the side of equal opportunities for all — equal right to have a roof over our head, equal right to be alive, equal right to have a corner of earth where we can plant lettuce and flowers.

When the astronauts saw the earth from outer space, they did not see lines demarcating where one country started and another ended. There are no borders between countries other than those made up by man. There is no difference in the color of our blood, whether we are Chinese, Caucasian, Black, or whatever. We all have a heart beating in our body, and that heart is pumping blood that is the same color. We all have the same mechanical make-up: brain, eyes, nose, ears, heart, lungs, liver, etc. We are all “related”.

We need to stop putting up barriers between countries and peoples. So what if you’re brown, and someone else is yellow, and someone else is white? Do we segregate according to hair color, shoe size, and height? Why is skin color such a big thing? Why is genetic inheritance such a dividing factor? Most of us, if we traced our genealogy far back enough, might be surprised at the mixture that is found in our veins (and that’s without knowing what sometimes took place behind the woodsheds).

When I lived in Jamaica, I remember that people used to refer to me as “the white lady”, and my reply was usually, “I’m not white. I’m light brown.” (I had a good tan at the time.) And I’d show them a piece of clothing that was white and say “Now, that’s white. Am I that color?” Granted, they were probably referring to my “financial” color. My skin color identified me as coming from a country that was “richer” than they were. Yet, what does skin color really show? Many people are “white” but are poor; many Arabs are not Palestinians, or not terrorists for that matter.

When I traveled in Israel, I remember having difficulty telling apart the Israelis that were originally from Mediterranean countries and the Arabs living in Israel. To me, they looked the same. They all had Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern facial features They could have been cousins. And, if you go back to your bible, then you see that they are, since they’re actually descendants of Abraham. It’s a family feud that goes on and on, and no one remembers what started it. It has been going on and on out of habit (and handed-down prejudices).

There is now some new scientific research that shows that all modern humans are descended from one woman… and that woman was from the continent of Africa. How’s that for throwing a monkey wrench in the “us against them” viewpoints of a whole bunch of people. Not only are we all related within 7000 generations, but we’re all African (and thus possibly Muslim as well).

OK, maybe that’s stretching to make a point, but, we are all human. We are all inhabitants of one planet, and if we keep blowing each other up, killing each other and other species, we’re going to end up with a dead planet with no live inhabitants.

Let’s recognize our oneness, our common humanity, and start helping each other rather than fighting each other and taking sides. If we all were willing to work together at creating a better place to live for all, then there would be no cause for war. If we can start moving away from the “us or them”, the “who’s right and who’s wrong” attitudes, then we can live as one people on one planet.

I know, you’re saying that’s easy to say. Well, yes it is, so let’s all start saying it. Unless we start saying it to each other, to our governmental representatives, to the people in other countries, then we don’t stand a chance. Every great invention started as an idea. Well, world peace also has to start with an idea, and it must be spread and spread until it becomes the idea of the majority, and then can become reality.

Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela also had ideas. They had ideas about changing their current reality by nonviolence. They had an idea that things could change and that change did not have to come about through force, killing, and war. They had an idea that they shared and then other people shared and it became reality.

Michael Moore in his bestselling book “Stupid White Men” has a letter to President Arafat where he suggests that the Palestinians simply lay down in the streets in nonviolent protest — that they stop going to work, that they stop throwing bombs, that they stop everything. That they simply block the streets with their bodies, effectively stopping all traffic, business, and movement of war machines. As he mentions, it worked for Gandhi, so it can work for them. Nonviolence is possible and it does get results, results that we will feel better about than the results of war and terrorism.

Rather than takes sides, we need to choose peace for all! Choose equal rights for all. No one owns the planet. No one owns a country. If the planet decides to “take back” its territory, it does so without concern as to who owns it. When a hurricane hits, or a flood, or a tornado, or a drought, it does so without concern of whose property it is, or whose country it is, or what language people are speaking.

Maybe if we saw things more from the perspective of nature, we’d be in a lot better situation today. Nature does not pick sides. It does not “prefer” one individual, or even one species, over another. While “survival of the fittest” has been a rule that we attribute to nature, we forget to see that collaboration is the greatest tool nature has. Bees make honey by pollinating flowers, which then permits the flowers to make fruits and seeds. Forest fires help release seeds for new growth. Fallen leaves make compost for new trees and new plants to flourish. A fruit tree has an abundance of fruits thus ensuring enough for people to eat as well as for extras to fall, rot, and create new trees, thus new fruit.

Nature is about cooperation and continuity. Nature does not pick sides: it simply gives every plant a fair chance to life. The sun shines on everyone regardless of their size, race, language, or opinions. Can we not do the same? Forget our old quarrels, our old grievances, our old prejudices, and start looking at everyone on earth as another person just like us… who simply wants a chance to live in harmony and peace and with a fair chance at happiness?

As John Lennon said “Let’s give peace a chance.” To do that we need to stop taking sides and choose peace for all. Let’s put our heads together and see how we can create a win-win situation. There is no need to continue fighting until things escalate to a point of no return. Let’s give peace a chance. Let’s not take sides, except the side of humanity in general, of life for all, of peace on earth.

What the world needs now is love… not just for one, but for everyone.” And it starts with me, it starts with you. It starts in the heart and minds of every single human being, one person at a time. It continues with your conversations with your friends and neighbors. It grows by you contacting your governmental representatives, with writing letters, with spreading the vision. It gains power by our taking actions that contribute to peace both in our close relationships and on the world stage.

Change can take place with our participation. First we have a vision, then we take the actions to help that vision come true. Ask yourself what you can do? It can be small, it can be big. Each person has their own “divine purpose”, their role to play. What can you do today to contribute to world peace? End a feud with a co-worker or a relative? Learn to be at peace with yourself? Write a letter or email to your governmental representatives saying that you want a peaceful harmonious resolution to war and that you want to protect our environment? Talk to your neighbors about your viewpoint? Send money to organizations that are working for peace and to feed and educate the hungry?

The game of life goes on with each of us playing our part. There’s are things you can do. And you’re the only one that knows in your heart what you can do and what you’re inspired to do. The ball’s always in your court and it’s always your turn to play!