Make memes not war!

I actually have mixed feelings about memes.  On one hand they promote the bumper sticker mentality of the modern age. I was really scared back in 2016 when I heard a young man in his twenties say, “I get all of my political news from memes.”  That explained a lot about the results of the Presidential Election.  On the other hand sometimes meme’s can point to the truth or at least initiate the exploration thereof.  Thus I paused to give further consideration to a meme that said, “If you avoid conflict to keep the peace you start a war within yourself.” 

My thought was: Is that such a bad thing?  The first thing I do before rushing into conflict is win the war within. I stop to think what part of my anger has more to do with my own past hurt, fear, and fear of getting hurt again than with the actions of the other person. I must conquer the urges to act out and express my rage instead of reasonably stating my concerns, objections or even disagreement. Even still I battle gain to control my emotions and speak the truth with love. A proverb says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  (Proverbs 15:1). 

I can think of an incident wherein by winning the war within I avoided unnecessary conflict.  I felt unfairly criticized and attacked. A part of my brain was primed to fire back defensively based upon residual anger from past unfair treatment.  I had to struggle to focus on the here and now and the person before me. I had to put aside my hurt inner child and my fear of another loss and reclaim my strength. I am a stronger person now.  I can listen and discern between what part of the other person's criticism is true and what part has nothing to do with me.  I realized that part of the other person’s emotion had to do with experiencing fear and stress beyond anything I had created.  I realized that I could acknowledge the truth of my own contribution to the situation without internalizing and personalizing the other person’s angst.  Instead of reacting I acted with reason demonstrating self-control.  I gave the other person room to choose to deescalate. However, even if they did not I was going to maintain my good character. 

Practicing this concept in a relationship and seeing someone’s heart transformed is a beautiful experience.

Perhaps this concept can also be applied to governments and international affairs. Consider that the United States has had troops deployed in Iraq since 2003. Before invading Iraq we had a conflict within to resolve. I am not sure that we resolved that conflict correctly. First consider that there was a strong status quo argument to be made. After the Persian Gulf War of 1991 Iraq was contained: It governed itself keeping internal forces in check while we kept the country's military in check with a "no-fly zone." The yearly cost of maintaining a no-fly-zone is fractional in comparison to the yearly cost of war, especially when you consider human life. (We could have written it off as pilot training, while enjoying the advantage of having bases in the region).

One thing that people do in building up to conflict is that they start to conflate different events to make a case for their outrage. In working ourselves up for the invasion of Iraq we conflated incidences of use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war, evidence that certain pharmaceutical production facilities could possibly be retooled for biological and chemical weapons and stories of some shipping containers and storage facilities that could be stockpiles of chemical weapons to build the case that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous terrorist bent on destroying the world using weapons of mass destruction. Also in the mix were some tenuous at best connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda which were conflated to comic book mythical proportions to Iraq Being part of the “Axis of Evil.”  Perhaps this was more our fear than reality. We had been traumatized by the attacks of 9/11 and we were afraid that someone was going to do it again. Those fears seem to have been projected upon Saddam Hussein. (At the psychological extreme the projection of fear upon another gets acted out with the decision, "I will hurt them before they hurt me.")

The person probably most in battle with internal conflict was President George W. Bush. Perhaps he was conflicted by the thought that he needed to finish what his father started with the first Gulf war, becoming convinced that the lack of regime change was a lack of success.  Perhaps he was conflicted between the uncertainty about weapons of mass destruction and the certainty that as President of the United States he would be held responsible if another horrific act of terrorism happened on his watch. The only reason to look back is to avoid making the same mistake twice. I have looked back at times I have overreacted and engaged in conflict with another person to learn to be a much more thoughtful and restrained person, taking action when needed but not caught up in a cycle of reacting to either perceived provocation or threat. Perhaps as a nation we need to look back to learn to resolve the inner conflicts regarding our fears of the world compared to the reality of the world to avoid unnecessary conflicts, i.e WAR.

"Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end." (Proverbs 29:11)

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