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King: Morning after brings hope for peace

POSTED: December 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.

This column is my own personal "morning after," written the day after the election of Barack Obama.

True to my word, I went to bed before 10 o'clock, the privilege of a senior citizen. And true to habit, I ate breakfast this morning with a fork in one hand and the morning paper in the other.

As I sit here now at the computer, a few races are still undecided, but Obama will be our next president and Democrats around the country are celebrating.

So much depends upon individual perception. There will be change, but what kind? John McCain supporters fear the worst, but what happens now is not preordained. Those who see disaster are more likely to experience it. In a sense, we do create our own reality.

Allow me to walk the reader through the morning news. Everything that follows came from the nation's wire services.

On Election Day, the Vatican brought Catholic and Muslim clerics together for a three-day forum intended to help the two faiths find common ground. To me this is a positive step, a much-needed change from the past when the two religions faced each other over a chasm of fear and distrust.

However, there are those who believe Islam is basically evil. They will see this gathering in a very different light. To them, the Muslims are using the Vatican in order to obtain greater acceptance from the rest of the world. The forum is purely political and nothing more.

But as the two faiths discussed their spiritual and theological fundamentals, they may actually have found that some of that common ground, and come out of the meeting with greater understanding and respect for one another.

These are two very different ways of looking at the same thing. I chose the positive view. I am not naive; both are possible, but I chose life. It's that fundamental, because unless we see the positive, how will we work for it.

Another story from the morning paper: A son of Osama bin Laden is seeking asylum in Spain where he hopes to become "an ambassador for peace" between the Muslim world and the West. He's young, married to a British woman, and has been living in Egypt. He has never actually renounced his father.

To many this is a red flag. If this man truly wants peace, he must condemn Osama bin Laden and all he stands for.

Another difference in perception. Until I know differently, I am willing to accept the man at face value. I don't see how he can be "an ambassador for peace" by damning one side of a conflict from the very beginning. Furthermore, no man should be forced to condemn his own kin. Again, I am not naive, but I am willing to see the positive.

If the man is not a peacemaker, we will find out soon enough. But until we do, let's give peace a chance.

Finally, a different story: Bettina Goering is a descendant of Hermann Goering, a man responsible for the death of millions of Jews.

Guilt has haunted Bettina all her life. So extreme was the emotion that she had herself sterilized for fear she would "... create another monster." Interestingly, her only brother independently took a similar step and had a vasectomy "... so the bloodline would end."

Such is the horror of the Nazi era.

In Israel, Bettina met another haunted woman, Ruth Rich, whose parents and brother were victims of the Holocaust. When they first met, Rich had nothing but contempt for Bettina, but they got to know each other while working on a documentary about Holocaust survivors and together they began a healing process that has made them best friends.

Pain this intense is never completely vanquished, but with time and understanding individuals can emerge far better people than they might have been otherwise. This is the power of peace. This is what change can bring. It is up to us to create this kind of reality.

Obama will assume the presidency at a time of global crisis. The world will never again be what it was before. There is no going back.

It is up to each and every American to look forward and commit ourselves to a positive future. It's up to us to chose life.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesville times.com.



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