When applying our knowledge to good, we can accomplish amazing feats. Take the development of vaccines, cures to diseases, methods for providing safe drinking water and the invention of technology that connects the world.
Used for good, we can watch the fruits of our knowledge do extraordinary things.
When faced with conflict we sometimes want to choose violence as a means of “solving” it, convincing ourselves the repercussions will be momentary for a far greater gain.
It is true that countries have frequently won their independence through war, such as our own freedom as gained through the revolutionary war.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, even with temporary victories, violence will never bring a permanent peace or be a force for good.
It will not solve social problems, poverty, disease, disasters and oppression because “it creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers,” King said.
We fail to realize that at the root of all violence our actions are driven by fear, and when we chain ourselves to fear we limit our ability to think freely. Our capacity for critical thinking, reason, empathy and compassion diminishes.
Of history we say that war was the only option to stop the suppression of human rights. But is this because we convince ourselves of this to justify our actions and failures? Why do we limit our understanding within a framework that provides a view of the world with few options?
As Mahatma Ghandi said, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the only good is temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”
There are few true proponents for violence and war, but there are many who in the most desperate times may call for it.
There’s a common notion that how we look fear in the eyes and act determines tomorrow.
As a generation far removed from the violence of war that our grandparents and great-grandparents witnessed or experienced, we know little about the scars war leaves behind. For this reason, it is critical that before making black and white judgements, we should seek to understand.
After John Hersey published “Hiroshima” about the stories of survivors of the atomic bomb, it impacted people’s understanding of war. It did so not because it took sides, or justified any actions, but because it took readers into the lives of the survivors of the bomb.
We are all called to be truth-seekers like Hersey, to release ourselves from fears and doubts even in the most challenging of times and to use our abilities to find solutions that better all humanity.
But it is not a easy role to assume.
The greatest champions of peace have suffered horrific deaths, including, of course, King and Ghandi.
Going forward, we have to choose what we will die for: war or peace.
We all take something as humans, but we also leave something behind.
We leave our influences on others and our story of how we lived and made a difference in the lives of others.
Erin Mairose is a senior journalism and business/communications major from Kimball, S.D.