“You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that caused the problem.”
– Albert Einstein
Dear President Elect Obama,
Here and in the Middle East there is plenty of evidence that the paradigms of our analysis are entrenched. But the thinking of the past has not brought peace to the Middle East. In organizing work you already know that without new thinking there is no hope for renewal. Einstein was right, the solutions to old problems require new thinking.
For 25 years I lived in Chicago’s neighbourhoods and I know a little bit about the problems of neighbourhood violence. I know you do too. Even handedness, honest words, respect and confidence building actions that reach across divides help create the way to resolution. Eventually all episodes of human violence do end, either by burnt out buildings and abandoned civilizations or by way of the mystery of new vision.
Last week I wrote a little piece where I encouraged people of faith to pray for a break through to arise from the 2008-9 war in Gaza. Activist do not often call for prayer, although there is a tiny secret that I know about activists. We do pray a lot more than people think we do. Sometime I hope you can tell me if that is your experience too.
I know ethical conviction and balance is part of your character that was fashioned over a lifetime of trying to do what is right. Unlike you, I don’t need to worry about getting elected or preserving my electoral covenant. However, I do worry about my spiritual covenant to think new thoughts and to follow through.
Today I believe you made a start by acknowledging your concern for the civilian casualties in Gaza and Israel. A good start! You will survive the people with iron clad ideas from the past who are already grumbling that your statement of sympathy for civilian casualties favoured one side over another. These won’t be your last words and millions of people here, in the Middle East and around the world are waiting for what you will say and hoping for a new thought path that can create an environment where rigid enemies are invited to become mutual winners. All the fire power of the United States or any other nation can not make this happen. However, less heavy handedness will help. Authentic respect for all the people of the Middle East will also help. Setting aside the violence of bombs, tanks, military supplies and the bribery of misplaced aid programs is another part of the new era.
The world is waiting for new, practical and realistic signals from our nation. By such fairer gestures in your first months in office you will help create the path for a journey towards respect, confidence and peace. You will be creating the space for development of all peoples, particularly the nations of the Middle East and our own nation. By the content of your message you will be able to help fabricate decades of growth that are free of violence and empty enemy talk.
Mr. President Elect, there may be no single matter in the world where your nudge towards new thinking could do more to rebuild confidence in the future. There are millions of us, Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are praying, protesting and hoping that our hands might touch into the strengths of one another in ways that are long overdue. We want to believe in the future. And we will continue to pray that the great hopes of all peoples might be awakened with a new paradigm that wants to become visible in you and your co-workers in these coming months.
I speak for many who want to be ready with prayer and active support.
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