The early days of April have brought the bright hope of spring sunshine, and a bitter cross-current of chilly winds. That's fitting for a time of year that we ponder how hard it is to be an apostle of non-violence in this world. It was noted here last week that a gunman put a premature end to the peace-and-justice activism of Dr. Martin Luther King on the evening of April 4, some 47 years ago. At the same time, Christians around the world celebrated the life, death and resurrection on Easter weekend of Jesus Christ -- a prophet of non-violence who was crucified by an evil empire frightened by his message of love.
One of the hallmarks of Easter Sunday in modern times is the Pope appearing before a large throng in the Vatican and appealing for world peace. And 2015 was no exception. Pope Francis addressed a dizzying array of bloodshed from Kenya to Libya and elsewhere, but this year the pontiff sounded one hopeful note, about fresh hopes that a deal over Iran's nuclear program will prevent a devastating war in the Middle East:
Francis made his first public comments about the recent framework for an accord, reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, and aimed at ensuring Iran doesn't develop a nuclear weapon.
"In hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world."
Decrying the plentitude of weapons in the world in general, Francis said: "And we ask for peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn their living with the blood of men and women."
As rain swept through St. Peter's Square, the multitudes went home and too many folks elsewhere around the globe resumed their default posture -- badmouthing anything that reeks of peace. That includes most Republicans in the U.S. Congress and the 2016 campaign trail as well as one honorary Republican, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and even hawkish Democrats. They see any conversations with Tehran as a sign of the Apocalypse.
And to be fair, the world is under no obligation to accept a bad deal -- one that's too generous to the Iranians and that does little or nothing to advance the worthy cause of nuclear non-proliferation. But most experts -- folks who know the ins and outs of nuclear disarmament and who aren't running in a Republican primary any time soon -- say this deal is remarkably good:
Experts reviewing the deal said they were surprised by its limitations on Iran, which include limiting its enrichment activities to a single site at Natanz, ending those activities at a second site at Fodrow, and re-engineering a third site at Arak so that its reactor no longer would produce bomb-grade plutonium.
"It's positive," said Shahram Chubin, a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nuclear Policy Program.
The objections by the Lindsay Graham-John McCain-Netanyahu crowd are a very real threat to making the deal happen -- which means they're a very real threat to world peace. The only alternative to this peace plan -- besides doing nothing -- is a military attack on Iran that runs a high risk of a wider conflict, in which Iranian troops would be well positioned to topple neighboring Iraq and spread the mullahs' influence throughout the Middle East. A regional war would likely result in the death of innocent Israelis and fatalities among the Americans still stationed in the region. The reckless cynicism of those who oppose the deal is stunning.
So why the resistance? Over the last 40-50 years, America has increasingly become a nation that's playing a game that you could call rock-scissors. Our bubbling cauldron of anxieties -- economic, religious and racial -- and ever-increasing state of national insecurity has made us a place where the hard option...the rock... always wins. When we see drugs, we pick arrests over rehab. When we see a poor neighborhood, we fund prisons before schools. When we pass the budget, we build tanks and fighter jets before roads. And when there's a problem overseas, the sword is always mightier than the pen.
You'd think we'd have learned by now. Nearly a generation of unchecked militarism not only has not brought peace to places like Iraq -- where more Americans died than on 9/11 -- and Afghanistan, but fighting has increased our sense of insecurity. It would be a miracle on this Easter Sunday if some of the professed Christians in American politics who believe you should never talk with your adversary, and never look for common ground, might somehow remember a few of the actual deeds and words attributed to Jesus. Starting with this lesson: "Blessed are the peacemakers."