War and peace…

In Daniel Schorr’s annual assessment of peace on earth he takes a look at the evolving definitions of “war” and “peace”:

It has become necessary to redefine peace, as it has become necessary to redefine war. War can be a lethal instrument called a suicide bomber, or – we’re not sure yet – it could be germs in an envelope or poison in a reservoir. Peace today is a nervous look at your neighbor, an X-ray of your baggage, a color-coded alert, and a president who says he is at war in defense of a place called homeland.

Peace has become a sometime thing, a search for enemies without return addresses operating from the shadows. Not a whole lot of goodwill toward men, either.

And finally, peace today is waiting for the next war to begin: the war against Iraq that we are promised will make the world safe again. If you don’t count a nuclear North Korea.

I maintain that the supreme political power, indeed the supreme human power, is the power to define. For those who would lead, for good or ill, exercising that power requires more than political office; it requires rhetorical skill. For the despot it also requires an uncritical audience. We may mitigate this power in those who hold legitimate political office by critically questioning definitions and using our own rhetorical skills to fight for our own definitions. In this way we may share the power. In this way, the supreme power remains a social exercise, a democratic exercise–as it should be. By questioning definitions we accept and exercise the responsibility of citizenship.