On a hot, sunny day in South Florida, amidst the natural beauty of the Florida Everglades, the only thing that mattered to me was nature. I was enjoying my surroundings as I watched a Great Blue Heron perched in one tree and an Anhinga perched in another. Surrounded by a variety of flora including palm trees, spatterdock, and my favorite - the strangler fig, these birds were also enjoying their surroundings. Nothing else in the world existed. We were at peace.
Given the day of this experience, it would be hard for most of the world to imagine a scene so serene. There was no discussion of the "Attack on America", no presidential press conferences and most importantly, nothing to remind us that the future was uncertain in this country. For awhile I had completely forgotten about the circumstances that had consumed me for the previous ten days.
But even in the midst of the great outdoors, a place with no electricity, plumbing, or telephones, there was no escape. I was walking on Anhinga Trail when I heard the reminder of the civilized world in the sky. As graceful as any flying bird endemic to the Everglades, an F-16 flew right over our heads. But unlike any living creature its sole purpose was to destroy - in order to impose one mans will on another.
My first reaction was chilling. I was immediately reminded of the scene in the movie Pearl Harbor, when the military planes flew over the heads of children playing baseball. . It was surreal. I became acutely aware that there is no escape from reality; even when you are trying.
So what was I to make of this? Has our world come to the point when military policing is necessary for safety? And then you have to wonder, who's really safe? Sure, we are protecting our country, at least the part most people are concerned with. But are fighter jets good for the environment of the Everglades? Must we fly our commercial planes at low altitude directly overhead in order to save a few dollars in fuel? Are we so short of land that we have to encroach on our national treasure to support shopping malls and used car lots. If we must be at war with terrorism and our own civility, can't we choose our battle grounds with more care and compassion?
There seems to be no room for war in peace or peace in war. The two are mutually exclusive and attempting to make them fit together would be analogous to killing for peace or screwing for chastity. The fact that the Everglades are in the middle of nowhere is a weak argument for the thousands of life forms that call nowhere home.
I cringe at the thought of this beautiful habitat as a vast wasteland; a dried up swamp. I cry for the loss of beauty and tranquility. I don't want to mourn for this epoch of natural splendor; I want to celebrate it.
And what of the problems of man? I am a patriotic American. I love my country. I want to feel safe in my home and when I leave it. But would I be safer without me beloved Everglades. Would mankind be better off without this wondrous rain machine? Would the interruption of the water supply to South Florida be good for anyone, or anything? There must be some things that stand above man's desire to conquer. Somewhere in both our moral and intellectual consciousness, we must know that there are natural wonders greater than ourselves.
When we prevail in this war on terrorism, as I'm sure we will, what will be the bounty of our victory? Will the fight have been worth it if we have no suitable wetlands to support or homes, our churches, or our schools?
Let the great Herons fly! Let the Eagles soar! Leave the alligators at the top of this wondrous food chain. There is no room for war in this place of peace. And if we forget this - our children shall indeed inherit the wind.
So, as I walked through Everglades National Park on a hot, sunny Florida afternoon, I experienced internal conflict of a supernatural kind. And I still wonder what to do. The "Attack on America" is not only about the people, it is about the whole world and all that lives within it. It is about the peacefulness of nature and the chaotic man-made world around it. There is no room for war in peace.
Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.