Although March has produced colder, windier weather than we experienced in February, Spring is near. The branches of our twin maple trees have sprouted little red buds in advance of their leaves, and the crocuses and daffodils are in bloom. Among its many gifts, Spring offers us the sweet enticement of hope. We’re tempted to believe the notions we’ve relegated to the “impossible bin” just might be possible.
One idea to which I return perennially was posed by the late Rodney King following his brutal beating at the hands of a few Los Angeles police officers in 1991.
“Can’t we all get along?” he asked. His question revealed an innocence, a child-like naiveté. To many of us the question was rhetorical, and that in itself was disturbing. But his query was valuable also, as it led to moments of reflection. Indeed, can’t we all get along?
I’ve often wondered why humanity has the need or the compulsion to wage wars, sometimes several per century. Are there disaffected voices chanting into the ears of disaffected people, “Okay. Enough already with this peacetime crap. We need another war.” Is there something in the human spirit that periodically seeks and elects national leaders whose lust for power, cultural hegemony, and wealth propel them to engage in conflict with other nations? Do these leaders emerge in different countries at the same time purely by coincidence?
What if a condition for becoming head of state were the vow to engage in diplomacy instead of weaponry?
Dear readers, I know a bit about the art of diplomacy by virtue of being my parents’ first born daughter, and by having taught ninth through twelfth grade students in two of Philly’s high schools. Both circumstances demanded many diplomatic moments.
I’ve dubbed my best childhood diplomatic episode, “The Vitamin Affair.” Having totally botched “The Evil Vegetable Caper” a few months earlier, I needed desperately to learn a different strategy.
The “Evil Vegetable Caper” pitted me against a helping of lima beans (see the photo… if you can stomach it,) and my parents’ attention to detail. I knew my mother was cooking lima beans for dinner, so I donned my apron…the one with the deep pockets sewn in the front. Stealthily, or so I thought, I used my fork to nudge each of those horrendous beans toward the edge of my plate. Then, surreptitiously, or so I thought, I moved each bean from the plate to my placemat, and then to my apron’s pockets. Shortly after finishing my meal, I asked to be excused from the table. I made my way to the bathroom, closed the door, and deposited the lima beans into the toilet. The instant I pressed the lever to send those beans into eternity or hell, whichever came first, the bathroom door burst open. There stood my father, the creases in his forehead deepened by anger. I’d been caught. I’d screwed up my mission. Maybe instead of depending upon the sewer system, I should have reasoned with my parents in the hope they’d understand how much I detested lima beans.
A few months later, suffering under the daily assault of particularly vile-tasting vitamins, I decided to embrace diplomacy. After all, two of us, my sister and myself, had skin in this game. I approached our mother and asked her if we could agree about something of great importance. I proposed that the next morning she would take one of the vitamin pills as we took ours. If she could tolerate its taste, we’d continue to tolerate being victimized/vitamized. If she found the taste of the pill to be as nauseating as we found it, she’d dump them into the trash and find a less foul-tasting product. She agreed. The deal was struck.
The next morning, as the three of us stood in the kitchen and scooped a vitamin pill from its jar, my sister and I watched our mother place her pill on her tongue, close her mouth, and begin to chew. Her face contorted with disgust, she walked briskly to the sink and spit out what remained of the pill.
“You win, girls,” she said. “You’re right. They taste terrible.” She picked up the pill bottle and threw it into the trash can.
Since that day I’ve known the power of diplomacy. It can temper rage and give potential combatants time to breathe and do what is reasonable. It has the potential to forge a path toward mutual understanding. Diplomacy is less dramatic than raised voices and nuclear fists, but it’s so much more impactful at a time when we just want “to get along.”
I can only hope my enthusiasm for diplomacy is neither rooted in child-like naiveté or considered an idea with a rhetorically negative conclusion.
Renée Bess ©2023
Renée Bess writes novels, short stories, poetry, and opinion pieces. Her work has earned a GCLS Goldie Award, and an Alice B. Readers’ Appreciation Award. Her publisher is Flashpoint Publications. Please visit Renée’s website to learn where you can purchase her books. http://www.reneebess.com
2 thoughts on “WHAT ABOUT DIPLOMACY?”
Well said as always my friend.
Thank you, Patty!