Pacem in Terris and Mercy Mild

With almost daily reminders that War is Coming, it gets hard to imagine an alternative.

Over the last month our media has been banging the drums of war suggesting that Kim Jong-un is borderline psychotic and is ready, at any moment, to drop a bomb.

With images of their prison camps, videos of their propaganda, and headlines screaming chaos, we see no other option…War is Coming.

Fifty years ago today, the Vatican addressed the entire world in an encyclical called Pacem in Terris. This was the first encyclical addressed to non-Catholics in the history of the Church. Addressing the whole World, Pope John XXIII lays out a very basic argument for one thing and one thing only: Peace on Earth.

Peace on Earth is practically impossible to imagine right now. If it isn’t war with North Korea, it’s war with Iran. If it isn’t war with Iran, it’s war with Wall Street. If it isn’t war with Wall Street, it’s war against Republicans and the Tea Party. If not them, who? If not now, when? …but why?!

War is a drug,” Chris Hedges pointedly observed.

It is a drug that some people would like you to believe only Americans are addicted to, but that’s just not true. It’s a drug human beings throughout the majority of recorded history have been hooked on.

Addiction is something I think about frequently. I have been surrounded by addictions my whole life. They come in many shades and are almost always more complicated than people realize at first glance. It is never something one can just quit.

I was conceived in 1986. This was the year the United Nations deemed the “International Year of Peace.” It was also, coincidentally, the same year the Vatican under Pope John Paul II held its first interfaith World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi.

Since I was born in 1987, there has been no time where there has not been a major conflict of some kind. Maybe not a War in the proper sense, but surely much combat and much killing. Every year since then has been inching us closer and closer to what seems to be another gigantic world conflict. To be clear, I have never seen Peace in my life.

It is not that we the people want this conflict, it is that we the people are addicted to it. We cannot avoid it because the drug has a complete hold on our current world order. As Marilyn Manson famously sang, “I don’t like the drugs, but the drugs likes me.”

At this point, I am at a loss as to what we can do. Since 2001 we have not seen any alleviation in the conflict. What does it mean when we remove troops from Afghanistan but allow private military contractors to stay? What does it mean when we aren’t at war with Pakistan but murder hundreds of their civilians with drones? What does it mean when we have killed Osama bin Laden but the problem with Muslim extremism seems worse, not better?

At this point, the only solution I can think of to this drug addiction is an intervention.

Pacem in Terris, though 50 years old, calls for something poignant. It asks us not to achieve Peace on Earth through arms, but through negotiations. How in the world could we ever do that?

In all seriousness, I really don’t know. But I think we ought to try. Last week, Switzerland offered to help with negotiations in the escalating North Korean crisis. South Korea just a few days ago assessed the situation as a vital concern, but there are still basically no talks of peace. Even Dennis Rodman is trying to open these doors. He suggests, perhaps naively, that Kim Jong-un likes basketball and Barack Obama likes basketball. Why not start there?

Instead, we are told prepare for conflict. War is Coming.

April 11 is the day not only Pacem in Terris was released, but it is also the day Kim Jong-un finally assumed his post in North Korea. I only wish we could all follow the spirit of 50 years ago rather than that of one year ago.

The problem is not one which can just be solved with good sentiments or good vibrations alone. Yes, if we followed the spirit of 50 years ago and, as they said, “give peace a chance,” we would all be better off. But that’s a dream. It’s a dream for people to imagine but not experience. We are stuck in the reality of War and, as it’s also said, War is Hell.

Let’s pretend for a moment that April 11 doesn’t have to be a day where we engage in conflict with Kim Jong-un. Let’s pretend for a moment we didn’t have this problem.

April 11, 1954 was considered the most boring day in 50 years in its time. April 11, 1970 is the day Apollo 13 was launched. April 11, 1976 is the day the Apple I was created. And above all, April 11, 1968 is the day President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act.

April 11 can instead be a historic day which preserves the notion of peace over war and instead promotes our development of technology and discover, even in times of turmoil and instability. Why, then, is this April 11 another day like every other where we are threatened with an advancement of war?

Because War is a drug. We are addicted. And like addicts, we always want more. And when we get more, we realize that’s not enough. And when we run out of what’s not enough, we start to hurt not only ourselves until we figure out how to resolve our fix, but we also start to hurt others.

This needs to stop. Regardless of your nation, regardless of your affiliation, Peace is a goal which all humans desire. It is a universal myth which all cultures wish for. Catholic mystic Raimon Panikkar says Peace is the symbol that all religions, all creeds, and all philosophies are ultimately aimed at. I agree with him.

The question is, then, can we get there? Not without an intervention.

We need to carefully reflect, as all addicts do, on what the cause of our addiction is. It is not out-of-control dictators like Kim Jong-un. It is not terrorist cells like the Taliban. It is not that Russia or China are communists and Americans are capitalists. Whether it’s war with North Korea, Iran, Syria, or even Russia (Russia!? You never know…) we have to blur the lines and seek peace.

The problem is that when we look at our neighbor we do not see ourselves. It is that when we look at ourselves we do not see our God. It is that when we look at our God we do not see Love.

Pacem in Terris is not impossible. We can have Peace on Earth. I am sure of it.

I believe with my whole Heart that we can have Peace not only in some time but in our time. We just have to really want it. The question I ask you, and I ask all addicts, do you really want it? Do you really want restful peace from this addiction? Or do you just like to say you want to stop but actually just want another drop, another squeeze, another hit?

The problem of War is not merely external. The problem of War is also internal. We are in conflict not only with each other, but with ourselves. We hate everything inside and outside our whole being because we have separated ourselves from the Source. Surely, I am not a peaceful person. Like the rest of us, I too am addicted to conflict. My Heart is the battleground of the Apocalypse.

So in order to have Pacem in Terris, we need to also have pax in corde meo, Peace in my Heart.

All one can say, and hopefully you will agree, is if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make that change. Start with the man in the mirror. He is desperately seeking an intervention.

Perhaps someday 1963 and 1986 can repeat themselves, but it seems since 1987 all the way through 2013 we have had nothing but chaos. Hopefully someday we can make that change and intervene, bringing about a new order of the world in which Pacem in Terris is not a fantasy but an established fact. There will come a time, when we heed that certain call. And come together as One.

This April 11, I hate to say, is not that day. Just… one… more… hit…

…then I’ll quit. I swear to God.

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2 thoughts on “Pacem in Terris and Mercy Mild

  1. I like your use of the image of addiction to war/violence and the notion of an “intervention”. What might that look like ? WHO would be the “family and friends” to stage the intervention for a whole nation, for example ? I share you point that work for Peace includes starting with ourselves, I just felt left out when you expressed it with the phrase “start with the man in the mirror”.

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