John Lennon, in 1971, released what Rolling Stone called “22 lines of graceful, plain-spoken faith in the power of a world, united in purpose, to repair and change itself.” It was the song Imagine. In it he asks the world to
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
In a column appearing in Truthdig, writer Sonali Kolhatkar, makes a similar cry of the heart. I don’t know if in writing her piece Lennon’s song lyrics came to her, she may be too young, but I wondered why,in nearly 45 years, we seem to be no closer to abolishing the divisions which cause humanity so much heartache, poverty, and pain. John Lennon said his lyric could be interpreted as Communist, not the bad, oppressive kind practiced in the Soviet Union or China-rather a benevolent, democratic-socialist kind of the sort that we find in Great Britain or Sweden. Wouldn’t we all be better off without the divisions that avarice, greed, and the accumulation of power and prestige cause? Even that found in organized religions which have a distinct hierarchy in which there are varying degrees of power, wealth, and eminence among its mostly male clergy? If religious orders of monks and nuns exist around the world, founded on the principle of shared labor, shared property, and shared sacrifice, I can find nothing not to recommend its practice for us all.
So many of the problems in the Middle East today have at their root, artificial boundary lines drawn by the victors of the conflict to secure resources for themselves. The collapse of the Soviet Union saw boundary lines redrawn when former satellite states asserted their independence. That independence is now threatened by a former KGB agent who wants to redraw those lines and claim new territory through brute force. Religion divided Sudan into two separate countries but the violence did not stop once a new boundary line was drawn. Nigeria faces the same problem with Boko Haram. And the people flee. In a world where sea levels are rising, crop lands are drying up, water resources are becoming scarce, economic, ethnic and religious tensions are increasing, and a state of seemingly perpetual, low level war exists, the migration of people around the Earth will only intensify.
Many people believe it naive, idealistic, or foolish to think that we could ever solve the problems of religious divisions, economic disparity, or nationalistic superiority. John Lennon, in his paean to peace, dared to dream otherwise. I have sent a son to war, twice, and although I did not lose him I know the pain and fear of it were with me in every anxious moment he was gone. Aylan and Galip Kurdi’s father has lost his sons, and his wife, forever because Canada refused their entry. Because boundaries. Because sovereignty. Because. I cannot imagine his pain, his loss, his anguish. Maybe we need to examine our need for boundaries. Maybe we need to examine our need to hoard resources that we all need to sustain life. Maybe we need to examine our need for nationalistic superiority. Perhaps it is time reclaim the freedom of movement across the face of Earth our ancestors enjoyed. Perhaps it is time to imagine nothing to kill or die for, if not for us, then for our children.