A motherly touch wins the peace in Iraq
What our nation is banking on is that this shift to a democracy in Iraq will undercut Islamic theocracies and autocracies that previously ruled with iron hands. In their place will rise an attractive democracy financed by oil. Other Arab nations will then catch this vision for what democracy affords. They will spend less time in hostile action against Israel as they tend to their own democratic fields being planted. With this U.S. democratic plan of action in place, all roads to Tehran, Damascus, Jerusalem and Riyadh will run through Baghdad, re-built as an Arab counterpart to Washington, D.C.
The Apostle Paul long ago surveyed the world aching because of diabolical Roman rule. He concluded that it is like a woman giving birth. The delivery to something better can be excruciatingly painful. “The whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now,” concludes Paul (Romans 8:22). When a precious baby is born, what precedes new life is pain as a mother is in labor.
Democracy means more than toppling a dictator like Saddam Hussein. It involves more than giving people who have had no rights the privilege of voting. Giving birth to democracy takes time because a rule of law must be established. Separation of powers between religion and the government needs to be defined, a concept quite foreign to the Iraqi Islamic mind. An independent judiciary must be established which protects a free press, recognizes religious freedoms, protects human rights and gives minority voices the ability to speak publicly.
Iraq needs a motherly touch. When our youngsters mess up life, they deserve more than stern lectures on how to do better. Kids who knock themselves down do not respond positively to mere reprimands. A wise mother spends time with errant children. She builds on their strengths and sticks with them through thick and thin.
A key dynamic that brought democratic principles to Japan after World War II was the dramatic and helpful way General Douglas MacArthur dealt with his vanquished foes. He did not stomp on his defeated enemies. Nor did the General coddle his former foes. He directed them toward a democratic way by showing respect, taking time to mold new governing patterns and picking up the Japanese when they were down. MacArthur mothered the Japanese.
Such a deft touch in molding the best from formerly militant Japanese did not seem to fit MacArthur’s dominant character. No one dared call him by his first name. He even trained his wife to address him as “General.” He wanted to create a bigger than life profile. No diminutive greeting contained this soldier who always commanded center stage. When others did not revere him enough, MacArthur did a wondrous job of preening himself. He installed a fifteen-foot high mirror behind his desk, so that when visitors entered his office, they greeted a statuesque General. He ordered photographers to shoot shots with Lincoln’s picture in the background so that generous visitors made cozy comparisons. Like Lincoln’s statue in his Memorial, MacArthur trained people to look up to him by habitually referring to himself in the third person. “MacArthur shall return to the Philippines,” he promised himself.
When the General signed the peace treaty on the battleship Missouri, those around might have suspected a pompous victor who demanded swift change from his vanquished foes. Rather, MacArthur showed magnanimity to the highest. He was no Shylock exacting his pound of flesh from the Japanese.
Heading the Allied occupation force in Japan, the General mixed decisive leadership with deep kindness. The Japanese revered him, not for his might but because he respected them. He did not denigrate his hosts as they pressed on for democratic measures to take effect. The Japanese saw MacArthur as an American counterpart to Emperor Hirohito. Running in the 1948 presidential election, he won the admiration of his enemies. The Japanese ardently supported his bid for the White House.
MacArthur showed unexpected motherly instincts for building up the downtrodden when he encountered a Japanese peasant in an elevator. Immediately, the humble farmer began to exit, bowing lowly. MacArthur beckoned him to re-enter the elevator, insisting that he stay. This man later wrote to the General, “I have reflected on this act of courtesy all week, and I realize that no Japanese general would have done as you did.”
Soon after taking office in occupied Japan, MacArthur decreed a five-year jail sentence for any GI who humiliated his defeated foes by slapping Japanese. Years later, a Japanese official reflected on this edict saying, “That was when we knew we had lost the war.” He recognized MacArthur’s humility as towering strength. Only a person in the driver’s seat can stop for pedestrians to cross the street. The General’s deferential demeanor and unrehearsed kindness came from a formidable strength within the man.
MacArthur had helped win the war in the Pacific. Now he had won the Japanese over to him. The time for bullets had ended. Democracy began and flourished when the General acted like a mother bolstering a naughty youngster who needed someone he trusted to believe in his better self.
That is what the Arab world needs. After kicking themselves long and hard, it is human nature to strike others. A motherly democratic touch stops such antics.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister serving with MAJESTY, featuring creative music for worship. MAJESTY can be reached at P.O. Box 8100, Avon, CO 81620. Web site: http://www.majestyministries.org. Van Ens’s book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes” is available at local bookstores for $7.95.
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