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Daily Journal
December 29, 2022
#98-363 KDJ

Let there be peace

By Dennis Marek
Local columnist

I was struggling for a topic for the day before Christmas and was not coming up with a suitable subject. Then I went to a Christmas concert last Tuesday night, and it hit me right between the eyes. No politics, no court issues and no lawyer jokes.

My wife and I were invited to a concert put on by Edward Jones, one of our financial people, held in a church’s facility with an orchestra named The Hark Up Horns. What we didn’t expect was a crowd of more than 1,000 people in the church’s anteroom. The place was full to the rafters.

It was so much more than horns. Yes, as I recall, there were four trombones, four trumpets, but also eight saxophones, an organ, two drummers, two guitars, a violin and two keyboards. We expected a number of seasonal songs with the orchestra, but there was so much more. Over the next hour and a half, there were four men and four women with excellent voices, sometimes as soloists or duets, and sometimes all eight.

The early part of the performance was fairly traditional with “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland” and even “I’ve Got Love to Keep Me Warm.” But then the projector that had been showing the musicians up close on a big screen above the orchestra went to a cartoon of Linus and Charlie Brown. Quite a speech from Linus to Charlie about the true meaning of Christmas. Then it was back for a couple of songs, before the screen lighted up again.

This time it showed a series of pictures of Ukraine with all the horror of that war on those poor people. There were more than a few in the audience seen wiping away tears. But most amazing was a group of statistics about war. It said that at present, there were almost 50 countries at war in some manner. The pictures were accompanied by statistics regarding the number of people killed or injured around the globe. Quite a step away from normal Christmas cheer.

The concert then shifted to stressing Christmas as a time of peace. As I listened, I recalled pictures of German and Allied troops taking a break and sharing food and water in the middle of World War I one Christmas Eve.

It would appear that war is not so much people against people but ideological leadership versus other leaders with dissimilar beliefs. Heaven knows that we see this here in America with attacks on our Capitol, shooting up schools and gay bars, killing innocent churchgoers and, most recently, shooting up power facilities supplying our American cities.

I came home later and tried to verify the numbers shown on the screen. I was even more amazed. Did you know that the United States has been in war over 200 years out of the last 243?

As I searched, there were more statistics from the present. If you count drug wars, civil wars and terrorism, there are 47 countries in wars today. I was dumbfounded by what I was reading. Here are some of those facts.

Countries with more than 10,000 war fatalities in the last two years: 6.

Countries with 1,000 to 10,000 war deaths for the same period: 12.

Countries having such 100 to 999 deaths: 24.

The bloodiest are the drug wars in our neighboring Mexico, with more than 50,000 killed since 2020, but these may not count as “conflict deaths” as most were murders. But this is not something new. In 1984 there were 800,000 casualties (deaths) in Rwanda, and over a period of years the Congo has suffered between 2 and 5 million dead. Syria has incurred over 500,000 war casualties since 2011, and Yemen over a quarter million since 2014.

Now to Ukraine. Gen. Mark Milley has suggested that there had been 100,000 casualties in the Russian Army although Putin has stated that there are less than 1,400 such deaths.

On the other side, we have a bit more reliable data. Ukraine has stated that there have been 6,700 civilians killed since February with about 10,000 seriously wounded. The number of military Ukrainians killed is estimated to be around 13,000 so far. This number might seem low compared to these other numbers above, but it would appear that we Americans and Europeans pay little attention to wars in northwest and sub-Saharan Africa, parts of the Middle East or small nations in south Asia. But they are still wars with thousands losing their lives, their homes, schools, and often food and water.

But back to the concert for a moment. It wasn’t over. Out came the lead soprano who started with an incredible version of “O Holy Night,” and in the middle, swung her voice into “Let There Be Peace.” She then finished with the rest of “O Holy Night.” The crowd got it. They not only applauded non-stop, but rose to their feet. The performance had struck a lot of nerves and mine as well. Peace.

When will we ever achieve real peace? We Americans aren’t much better than the Developing nations when we have our own haters, our Proud Boys, and our apparent dislike of anyone different from us, be it religion, politics or a chosen way of life.

I walked away in awe with the numbers that had been shown, but also warmed with the feeling that there are those who will not only pray for peace, but will support places like Ukraine or Nigeria, Iraq or South Korea. It is sad that sometimes war is the only way to end a war. May we always be on the good side in our attempts to make this world a better place, be it for Christmas, Hanukkah or just Happy Holidays.

Dennis Marek can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or through his personal email at dmarek@ambltd.com.

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