In 1856 in Maud Miller, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, it might have been.”
What if, in the 1980s after the cold war, we had said, “We’re all in this together, living on the same planet, daughters and sons of the same God, sharing the same biological nature, homo sapiens, bound together by the same rights and responsibilities, destined for the same goal, union with God and with one another?” What if we had learned to listen compassionately to the needs of other groups and nations? What if we had learned to communicate effectively and lovingly? What if we had acknowledged the dignity, value, and worth of each human person?
If we had a dispute that couldn’t be settled by conflict resolution, arbitration, mediation, what if we had taken the matter to a world court that was part of a democratic world federation? What if we had shared and cooperated more?
Would we be in debt now, strangled by unemployment, in danger from environmental degradation? At risk from terrorists? With dehumanized and imagined enemies? With groups who really hate us and are our real enemies? With soldiers not only killing civilians and children, but killing themselves? Would we be in a world with so much unnecessary suffering?
Is it too late to correct our folly? Why not say the happiest words of tongue and pen are yes, we can. We can listen compassionately to one another. We can create an inclusive economy. We can take better care of our earth. We can settle differences without killing. We can love one another.