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Welcoming 2009
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Can We Find A Path Away From War And Hate?

By James Donahue

While neighbors and friends celebrated the arrival of the New Year with fireworks, rich food, drink and general rivalry, my wife and I spent a quiet evening watching a powerful film on HBO. This was not time wasted. The film was packed with a severe message for all who see it.

We highly recommend The Kingdom, with Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner. It is a story about an FBI team of Americans who get special permission to travel to Saudi Arabia to assist in solving a terrorist suicide bomb attack by Saudis against their own people that left about 100 civilians, many of them women and children, dead.

It is obviously a fictitious story and yet  it  takes place in a country that lies in the heart of the Middle East where suicide attacks like this are occurring daily, and hundreds of thousands of innocent people are dying in attacks very much like the one depicted in this movie.

Without ruining the plot, we will say that after a gripping story of intense detective work that uncovers a nest of radical Muslim terrorists, and concluding with some of the most intense combat scenes we have seen on film, the story ends with everybody involved in the same quagmire U.S., Iraqi, Pakistani, Indian, Indian, Israeli and Hamas forces find themselves facing at this very hour.

We are all locked in a vicious cycle of hatred, killing, intensified hatred leading to revenge, and more killing. As long as we refuse to lay down our bombs, rockets and guns, and extend an open hand of fellowship to the people who do not see the world in the same way we do, the senseless warfare cannot end. To resolve this problem, we must somehow learn to love our enemies.

New Years Day is an almost international national holiday that is traditionally marked by the ringing of bells, the shooting off of brilliant fireworks displays and other celebratory events. We do this because there is a yearning we all share that the start of a new year also can signal a fresh start . . . a time of resolution for accomplishment, for setting a new course in our lives, and making our homes, our neighborhoods, and perhaps our world a better place than it was in the last year.

There is no doubt that 2008 was a year many of us will not wish to remember, although it also will be a year we will not soon forget. Because of what we did in 2008, we step cautiously into 2009 with some degree of fear and trepidation.

It is true we elected a promising new leader named Barack Obama, who will be taking office Jan. 20. But the national and world problems created by the outgoing people who held power for eight years have become so intense; it almost appears as if Obama’s presidency is already marked for failure.

We know Mr. Obama is a smart man, but is his genius enough to plot a winning course through the quandary of two wars, a flaming war in Palestine that threatens to spread throughout the Middle East, a crashing economy, a collapsing infrastructure, a failed education system, an energy crisis and a problem of air, ground and water pollution that threatens our very extinction?

From our perspective, it appears that the first order of the day will be to find a way to shut off the cycle of killing. We have high hopes that President-elect Obama will be capable of opening dialogue with world leaders and persuading them to seek peaceful solutions too what now appear to be insurmountable problems.

This man has demonstrated over and over again throughout two hard years of political campaigning, and intense verbal attacks since winning the office, that he is slow to anger. Instead of trading blow for blow, he extends a hand of friendship, even to those who attacked him the hardest. As fierce as his battle with Hillary Clinton was for the party nomination, notice that Clinton now sits at Obama’s right had as Secretary of State, one of the most powerful jobs a new president could award a former rival.

If Obama can do that within his own party, what can he accomplish among nations now at war with one another?

While many people are approaching this New Year with pessimism and awe, we find that we are much more optimistic. We see an opportunity ahead for change that has been sorely needed for a very long time.

This world must unite if we expect to deal with the real threat to all of us . . . the looming collapse of the environment in which we live. Without food, water and clean air to breathe, there will be no future for any of us, or our children.