War and Peace

Dialogue and democracy
The main mission of the Rolfe Alumni Web Site is to provide a means of communicating among alumni and other Rolfe loyalists about alumni and community news. Therefore, the RHS Alumni Web Site staff has not spoken out on the war between the United States and Iraq. However, these are uncommon times and at least a minimum statement about the situation seems appropriate.

There are presumably many Rolfe loyalists who zealously support our country's attack on Iraq. There are presumably many other Rolfe loyalists who have a disdain for our country's attack on Iraq. And between those two extremes of opinion, there is presumably a whole spectrum of perspectives about the war. We will let the opinion pages of our newspapers, the airwaves of talk radio, and cyber discussion sites on the Internet be the avenues of discourse for people who wish to use the media to express their various opinions. And of course, there will be personal, face-to-face conversations in our homes, during social hours at our churches or other institutions of faith, at bars and cafes, during coffee breaks at work, and wherever people are not afraid to talk politics.

Dialogue between divergent voices is an essential part of our American society. In fact, there are many religious traditions (I know for sure of the Presbyterians and Quakers) who believe that essential truth arises through dialog. Just as a fine piece of crystal consists of many facets, so does truth consist of many elements.

My prayer would be that people who engage in the dialogue remain civil and avoid vitriolic barbs. There is enough violence in the world in general and in this war. My prayer would also be that when people engage in dialogue about the war, they to listen to each other. Admittedly, it is difficult for a person to hold a strong opinion about an issue such as war and stick to his or her principles while listening to people whose ideas push his or her buttons. It is tempting to either avoid the people whose views are radically different than our own or to spew retorts that are full of hate. Of course, there are times when it is wise to put a newspaper editorial in the trash can or turn off the radio and television. There are also times to walk away from a conversation where the other person has no intention of seeking truth but instead is acting out of his or her personal insecurity with the sole intent of disturbing you or picking a fight.

I am not suggesting that people be nice about dialog. It is not healthy to push the topic of war under the rug or gloss it over with polite but trivial conversation. However I am suggesting that there is the possibility that well-intended people, whether those who wish to liberate the Iraqi people or those who seek peace without war, can lose their focus on their good intentions and become damn good haters in the process of castigating those who differ about issues of war and peace.

If our national leaders wish to have a regime change in Iraq and build a democracy there, then we should at least make sure that democracy is and alive and well here within our nation. And one aspect of being a democracy is the exchange of ideas in a civil manner.

Uneasy times
These are not easy times. It is hard to imagine the terror that the war brings to the lives of many people. For sure, there are those soldiers and civilians in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East who are in harms way or who have already lost their lives or seen vast destruction in this war. I cannot imagine what the war is like for them. For sure, there are people back home in the States who have family members or other loved ones who are serving in the war. I cannot imagine what the war is like for them.

I live in the safety of the small town of Gilbert within the borders of Iowa and the United States and am not in harms way of the war except as it affects our nation's economy, the state's budget, our civil liberties, or the potential for terrorist acts. I have no loved ones serving in the military. In fact, I know of no ancestors who have served in the military. Yet even I feel restless and upset with what is happening and feel helpless except to post a photo of a candle flame as part of a vigil for peace and to make one small suggestion.

Donations for humanitarian aid
Regardless of whether we are hawks or doves (or more likely some place in between), most if not all of us presumably are concerned about some basic things: a resolution of the conflict in the Middle East, the well-being of the men and women who serve our country, and the well-being of the innocent soldiers and citizens of Iraq. There may be little that we as individuals can do to affect change and to help these people; however, there are at least two agencies who provide help during and after wars. We can make donations to them. Of course, there are many other agencies who provide help during war and disasters. Check with your church or other institutions of faith. Also, let us know of organizations you think would be good to add to this list. Thank you for any information you can provide us and for contributing to those agencies which provide humanitarian aid to people hurt and displaced by war.

The first agency that comes to mind is the International Red Cross. You can make financial contributions to the Red Cross for humanitarian work in Iraq.

Recently, I have been reminded of the excellent work of Oxfam. Its web site says, "Oxfam International is one of the first aid agencies to arrive at the site of a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis supplying vital resources such as food, water, shelter and clothing. Oxfam's highly efficient and effective emergency water and sanitation system is summoned to almost any relief program in the world, as it provides refugee camps and people in chaotic environments with the immediate essentials of clean water, latrines, and hygiene education."

I believe that making a contribution to the Red Cross, Oxfam, or similar relief organizations is a vital, conscientious step that we can make regardless of our mindset regarding war and peace. Thanks for bearing with me on this sensitive issue.

Helen D. Gunderson, editor
Rolfe Alumni Web Site
March 25, 2003


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