When he faced criticism for signing a peace treaty with the Yassir Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said, “You don’t make peace with your friends, only with your enemies.”
Right. But do you make peace with people who call you names? Do you make peace with those who disrespect the people you lead? Do you make peace with those who hate your nation and everything that it stands for? Who boast that they will “bury” you?
Rabin and Arafat had a long history of discord, yet the two worked together on the accord, which for all intents and purposes, seems to have failed. Why? Because while the handshake and treaty were symbolic, they could not change the fact that the ideologies of the two nations/nation states conflict. Can you make peace with someone who does not believe you should exist? Can you befriend someone whose religion is in direct opposition to your own?
Jake Barnes’ last line in The Sun Also Rises comes to mind, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
I recalled this historic meeting of the hands after the one this week between President Obama and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas.
Chavez can be characterized as an enemy of the United States. For evidence, look no further than his prompting of Venezualean crowds to chant “Death to America!” Or how about this rant he gave at the World Forum 2006, where he shouted “socialism or death!” and said of the USA, “It is the most perverse empire in history: It talks about freedom while invading and destroying other nations …This century we will bury the US empire.”
And lastly, just before their chummy meeting, Chavez resorts to name calling when Obama claimed he generates terrorism and holds Latin America back. “He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism,” Chavez said. “The least I can say is that he’s a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality.”
If I go to a party, and someone is there who wants me, my nation, and its economic system dead,and who has called me a name and suggested that I need to be better schooled, a hearty handshake and ear-to-ear grin are the last things I give them. The evil eye, daggers, a scowl or two from across the room would be on my agenda.
All conspiracies and controversies aside, President Obama seems to be playing nice. He’s the bigger guy, able to be cordial, turning the other cheek. Let their be peace on Earth and let it begin with Obama. Why can’t we be friends?
What purpose would a scowl and vitriol serve anyway? However, the enthusiastic handshake and smiles sends a message to the rest of the world, and to US citizens, that our president will stand by and let the bully beat his chest and make a laughing stock of the mother country–this is not unlike letting the boastful guy in the bar get away with slamming you with a litany of “Yo Mamma” jokes…Who let’s someone diss their mother?
Just as the Israelis and Palestinians cannot achieve peace, the USA cannot be “friends” with Venezuala until our ideologies are in line. And that should not mean that we shift our democratic and capitalist ideals to ally with their dictatorial socialist mindset.