I don’t typically pay attention to international politics. In fact, I don’t pay much attention to US politics either. This whole “government shutdown” thing? I don’t understand it, couldn’t discuss it with you and certainly couldn’t explain to an outsider how it has affected me.
But there is one thing about politics that has become very clear to me after having practiced law for almost 13 years now. It’s that sometimes compromise is impossible. I know that it sounds obvious, something that shouldn’t have taken me 13 years to figure out, or even 37 years on this earth, but it struck me just last week as I was listening to our Rabbi in temple discuss the difficulties in the Middle East that seem to have been go on for centuries.
It was after a particularly lengthy mediation, which resulted in some modicum of progress but not enough to conclude the dispute and reach resolution, that this became glaringly apparent to me. Perhaps it is my temperament but I believe that resolutions can be reached. At the mediation, instead of sitting back and allowing the retired judge work to move the parties toward settlement, it was me running back and forth, working the opposing parties and trying to get everyone into settlement-mode and away from belligerence and antagonism. Yet despite all of my efforts, I was also up against an enemy with no name and no face. That enemy was conviction.
In so many instances, reaching a compromise means admitting that you were wrong. While the actual resolution itself may state that neither party is making any admissions as to fault or responsibility, psychologically a party that compromises feels that they are admitting some form of wrongdoing; as if by making concessions the party is also admitting that their position may be faulty or that they have culpability.
Some parties simply are not prepared to make such a statement or take such a position. When I consider the fervor of the Middle East tensions, I think about the impossible task of reaching any form of truce or compromise. Despite my disposition to believe that all differences can be rectified, the truth of the matter is this is not the case. When you have that strong of a commitment to whatever position, it is possible that you will not waver from it, no matter the offers being made to you or the losses that you suffer.
Isn’t this the root of so many wars? One side so firmly entrenched in its beliefs and ideologies that it is unwilling to step down even one minor peg? Or, even more strikingly, one side so assured of its position that it feels that aggressive action is necessary in order to force its philosophies on others? History is rife with examples of unnecessary suffering and bloodshed simply because of national pride and an unwavering commitment to a system of beliefs.
And yet all wars at some time or other end. They end after too many deaths and too many wasted resources, too much money spent and too many families shattered. And some wars end and are forever placed into the past—it still surprises me to think of the good relationships our country has with Japan and Germany and Italy, despite the trauma and hatred spawned by the events leading up to World War II and after. Or even better, our relationship with England, against whom we fought not one, but two wars. And let’s not forget Canada… ok, maybe that one is a bad example.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that war will never end. I will never see during my lifetime a period of no war. Countries will always be fighting against each other. Until one side is willing to consider that swallowing a little bit of pride and coming to a negotiation table will save millions of lives and resources and money and will allow everyone to live in peace and happiness, there will be war.
And for some, that is all that they know. I handled a matter once where three children were suing their father. After over two years of litigation, the matter had finally settled, the father having been beaten down so heavily that he conceded to demands in order to end the fighting. My clients, despite receiving virtually the entire laundry list of settlement demands, were still unhappy. Why? Because they had been fighting for so long and had long look forward to the day when they would beat their father that they didn’t have anything else to focus on. They had lived with the battle for so many years, long before I had gotten involved had they been fighting with their father, that they didn’t know how to live without the battle.
In order to end all wars, there needs to be a paradigm shift; one where the focus of the next generation is not on conflict but on resolution, not on strife but on peace. Frankly, I don’t see it happening… what a waste.
Have a great week.