When I ask people what they believe is the opposite of “peace” most pause suspecting that it’s a trick question because the answer seems so obvious. After a moment they answer war!
This isn’t wrong, of course, but I think that the real opposite to peace is “truth.” Consider the nature of each.
Truth is hard, absolute, cut-and-dry, black or white, unbending, rigid. Its yay is yay; its nay is nay. There’s neither middle ground nor gray. It’s an all or nothing thing.
Peace on the other hand requires subtlety and nuance. It’s delicate, pliable, flexible, and soft. It’s neither cut and dry nor black and white. It’s the gray of the in-between and necessitates give-and-take, compromise and accommodation.
Whether the conflict is between peoples and nations, political parties, business interests, spouses, siblings, friends, or enemies, peace cannot be sustained if one or both parties insist always on adhering to its truth without regard to the truth of the “other.” Henry Kissinger once quipped that a successful outcome to negotiations means that both sides end up unhappy.
What’s taking place in Congress with the debt limit crisis is the same malady that is infecting the American Jewish community vis a vis our disagreements about Israel and the Palestinians, and it is the same problem within the Israeli government and the Palestinian community. Neither side can have it all. There are legitimate narratives to be heard and understood by each party. Everyone ignores this truth at its own peril.
President Obama was right when he noted this week that “compromise” has become a dirty word in American politics. I fear the same is true within the current Israeli government, that peace is not its real goal.
Shaalu shalom Yerushalayim. Seek peace O Jerusalem!