“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
by John Lennon
John Lennon painted a beautiful picture in this song. In some ways it was revolutionary, arguing for finding peace by ending religion itself (among other things), but to me it seems like the same old argument that has been used for millennia to justify oppression.
We can find peace, if we only give up our differences, the song seems to say. Fighting will stop when there is nothing left to fight about: no religion, no nations, no possessions. To me this seems like an argument that is almost as old as government itself, as kings and emperors sought to establish peace in their borders by eliminating differences among their subjects.
Renaissance-era Spain is an example of how far this can go. In the name of national unity, the rulers of Spain threw out families of Jews and Muslims who had lived and practiced their religion on the peninsula for centuries. The Spanish Inquisition actually started as a way to uncover closet Jews, Spaniards who had given up their religion in public for the right to stay in their homes and country. At the time, Spanish rulers believed a country had to be united in religion to be strong.
To me, John Lennon makes a similar argument. He was not religious, after all, so when he asked others to give up their religion he was essentially asking them to believe like him. It seems very much like he was saying “if everyone believes like me, we will have peace,” something the Spanish monarchs might also have said.
I strongly disagree. The only way to find peace is not by eliminating differences, but by respecting them and accepting them. This is a common refrain today, but it isn’t just about accepting the rights of minorities. It means accepting that good, intelligent people will have different views on social issues like abortion, gay marriage and gun control…and not demonizing them for disagreeing with us.
We cannot find peace in politics if our goal is to eliminate opinions we don’t like. Mockery, derision, ridicule, insults and anger will get us absolutely nowhere. Peace does not come from agreement. It comes from being peaceful.