Poland should shame every nation that believes peace and reconciliation are impossible, every state that believes the sacrifice of new generations is needed to avenge the grievances of history. The thing about competitive victimhood, a favorite Middle Eastern pastime, is that it condemns the children of today to join the long list of the dead.
For scarcely any nation has suffered since 1939 as Poland, carved up by the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact, transformed by the Nazis into the epicenter of their program to annihilate European Jewry, land of Auschwitz and Majdanek, killing field for millions of Christian Poles and millions of Polish Jews, brave home to the Warsaw Uprising, Soviet pawn, lonely Solidarity-led leader of post-Yalta Europe’s fight for freedom, a place where, as one of its great poets, Wislawa Szymborska, wrote, “History counts its skeletons in round numbers” — 20,000 of them at Katyn.
It is this Poland that is now at peace with its neighbors and stable. It is this Poland that has joined Germany in the European Union. It is this Poland that has just seen the very symbols of its tumultuous history (including the Gdansk dock worker Anna Walentynowicz and former president-in-exile Ryszard Kaczorowski) go down in a Soviet-made jet and responded with dignity, according to the rule of law.
So do not tell me that cruel history cannot be overcome. Do not tell me that Israelis and Palestinians can never make peace. Do not tell me that the people in the streets of Bangkok and Bishkek and Tehran dream in vain of freedom and democracy. Do not tell me that lies can stand forever.
Ask the Poles. They know.
During Sgt. Ron Kelsey’s year-long deployment in Basra, he began to think about how his work as a fine artist jived with his position as an Army officer. Pondering the power of art to heal emotional wounds, Kelsey approached IAM about partnering with the U.S. Army on an exhibition. Mako will speak, I will sing—and there will be plenty of beauty to help the healing begin. —Christy Tennant
Reflections of Generosity: Fort Drum Arts and Crafts Center
August 19 - September 11
The “Reflections of Generosity – Toward Restoration and Peace” Art Exhibit is dedicated to the memory of the heroes of 9-11 and the Soldiers who have given their lives in recent conflicts. Experience the power of painting, sculpture, and song to facilitate restoration through generosity, community, and beauty. Join us at Arts and Crafts for artwork and performances that reflect the spirit of ongoing generosity demonstrated by the military. The opening night will feature Makoto Fujimura, Tim Sheesley, Pamela Moore, Sharon Graham Sargent, Claye Noch, Joyce Lee, Sandra Ceas, Jay Walker, Gerda Liebmann, C. Robin Janning, Craig Hawkins, John Russel, Charles A. Westfall Macon, Ron Kelsey, Kyla Kelsey, Christa Wells, and Christy Tennant.
He drives to church in an armourplated car, escorted by 25 members of the Iraqi Army. As he preaches, he and his congregation are protected by soldiers cradling machineguns. Each week, familiar faces disappear — kidnapped, abducted or blown up by a suicide bomber. And each week politicians, generals, Muslim clerics and desperate mothers stream in to St George’s Anglican church to beg the help of an English vicar in ending violence, promoting dialogue and negotiating the release of hostages. For Canon Andrew White, fighting for peace has an all too literal meaning. His parish is the most murderous in the world: Baghdad.
The biggest barrier between Catholics and the confessional, however, may be the real effort it requires. Unloading your transgressions on the Internet takes a few computer clicks—you can do it on your coffee break. But done right, Catholic confession demands a rigorous examination of conscience and real contrition, to say nothing of the prayers you may be assigned for penance and the thinking a priest may ask you to do about the ways you’ve let yourself and God down. No wonder we are more comfortable with the Eucharist service, which demands only that we line up like consumers and accept something for free. Dorothy Day wrote of having to “rack your brain for even the beginnings of sin.” That’s work.
Towards the end of his 27 years in jail, Nelson Mandela began to yearn for a hotplate. He was being well fed by this point, not least because he was the world’s most famous political prisoner. But his jailers gave him too much food for lunch and not enough for supper. He had taken to saving some of his mid-day meal until the evening, by which time it was cold, and he wanted something to heat it up.
The problem was that the officer in charge of Pollsmoor prison’s maximum-security “C” wing was prickly, insecure, uncomfortable talking in English and virtually allergic to black political prisoners. To get around him, Mr Mandela started reading about rugby, a sport he had never liked but which his jailer, like most Afrikaner men, adored. Then, when they met in a corridor, Mr Mandela immediately launched into a detailed discussion, in Afrikaans, about prop forwards, scrum halves and recent games. His jailer was so charmed that before he knew it he was barking at an underling to “go and get Mandela a hotplate!”
Decades of war and internal strife have left Cambodia with one of the highest proportions of people disabled by land mines in the world. The country’s only professional sports league is the Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled), a network of volleyball teams whose players once fought against each other in times of civil war and now face each other on the court. They also sponsor a wheelchair racing program which empowers women who would traditionally be confined to their homes. Currently, the national volleyball team is ranked number three in the world, and regularly defeats non-disabled teams including an Australian navy squad which has tasted defeat three years running. These national heroes may have lost limbs to land mines, but they’ll still whoop you in volleyball.