12/17/2007

Peace is to Touch the Earth

If Americans walked more gently on the earth, we would have fewer enemies. George Fox, founder of the Quakers, wrote: "Walk cheerfully over the earth, answering that of God in every person." Sioux elder, Black Elk, said: "Let every step you take upon the earth be as a prayer."

When we touch our own land, we can allow Muslims to recover theirs. People who live in relationship with their soil are not interested in empire.

Breathing from the souls of our feet, we remember how to walk. Slowly and delectably, we listen to the inquiry of a cricket, a bell thrush, the sun-dappled cottonwood leaves rattling in the afternoon. Walking barefoot, breathing, noticing the vast wealth of the small: this is world-changing political action. The central question for our world leaders is: "Do you know how to take a walk?"

Friends, there's a relationship between our politics and our spirituality. If our spirituality is unearthly, our politics are as disconnected from the world as our souls. We are violent, exploiting and disinheriting other human beings from their native soil. But when our spirituality is rooted in the earth, our political systems aim to recover lost relationships between land and people.

A clash of civilizations? This clash has more to do with our relationship to the earth than with our relation to Islam. The West wants to own and sell the Arabs' chief natural resource - oil. Arabs no longer agree to be corporate serfs. Is that so hard to understand?

In truth, every "terrorist" attack is seen from the Arab perspective as an act of self-defense. When Western oil companies act as business-partners instead of feudal lords, Arab hostility will abate, for Arab citizens hate and fear us only in proportion as they feel disenfranchised from their own land. They do not "hate our freedom and values," as Neocon propagandists claim. They want their own freedom back. They want to walk on Arab soil.

People uprooted from economic relationship with the soil grow desperate and angry. When white Americans disinherited Native Americans, natives fled their pain through violence, alcohol abuse, and the peyote Church. Now the West is doing the same thing to the people of the Middle East, exploiting the resources under their feet.

Because we have disenfranchised many Arab citizens from any politically meaningful and economically viable land-relationship, young Arab intellectuals express their alienation through Wahabi Islam or radical Shiism. Despairing of any reconnection with the earth, dwelling like aliens in a land once theirs but now controlled by Western profiteers, they compensate for that lost land-relation by seeking an unearthly paradise. They make a violent sacrament of their final disconnection - as suicide bombers.

Will Americans learn to walk prayerfully upon the earth? Will we learn to use the land for meditation instead of fuel? Could we live in bigger hearts and smaller houses? To our Third World brothers and sisters, might we be stewardship-partners rather than landlords? May we walk beside them instead of driving over them in humvees?

Terrorism will cease when a Muslim, bowing in prayer, no longer feels an American boot between her forehead and the soil.

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