Interview: American poet and peace activist Michael R. Burch
By Milena Rampoldi, of the editorial team of ProMosaik e.V
ProMosaik e.V.: As I can understand your point of view LAW can bring PEACE. How do you think this is possible for Palestinians and Jews after these hateful decades of war?
Michael R. Burch: Yes, I firmly believe it is possible. And I think history demonstrates that peace is possible, when the laws and courts are nonracist and just. Take, for example, the situation of Jews in Germany after the Holocaust. Obviously, there were very bitter feelings on the part of the Jews who survived the Holocaust. Many of them left Germany, but many stayed. Today I believe there are more than 200,000 Jews who live in Germany, and more Jews are emigrating to Germany. Something very similar happened in the American South, where I live. Before the mid 1900s we had slavery, then Jim Crow laws, kangaroo courts and segregation. Black Americans could not drink from the same water fountains as white people. They had to sit at the back of the bus. But once the United States had fairer laws and courts, things began to change for the better. Today I live in an upper-class neighborhood that is open to everyone of every skin color and tone. And we really do get along. So it is possible for fair laws and courts to create friendships between former bitter enemies, over time.
ProMosaik e.V.: Do you think a real democracy with no apartheid and equality of all in front of the law is enough to guarantee the long-lasting peace? And why should it work considering all the religious and nationalist movements in the region on both sides?
Michael R. Burch: I’m not sure that we can guarantee a long-lasting peace. But I think we can greatly increase the chances for a long-lasting peace, in a nonviolent way. I think this should work despite the diverse religious and nationalistic movements. The United States is extremely diverse. The European Union is extremely diverse. The greater the diversity, the more equality becomes necessary, I believe, or the group in power takes advantage of the other groups, and that leads to friction and hostilities. Then things begin to escalate and there is soon an avalanche of horrors.
ProMosaik e.V.: If we consider historical facts, it is justice that leads to racial peace, not feelings. Can you explain this thesis to our readers?
Michael R. Burch: Yes, I will use three examples of justice leading to racial peace. Not perfect peace, but relative peace.
(1) The situation of Jews and other “undesirable” people in Germany improved quickly and remarkably after the Allies forced Germany to create a fairer system of laws and courts.
(2) The situation of blacks and other minorities improved quickly in the United States once American courts began to protect the victims rather than the oppressors.
(3) The situation of blacks in South Africa began to improve quickly once fairer laws and courts were established.
There were no sudden outpourings of love and affection in these cases. Rather, implementing a better system of justice allowed people on both sides to see that they could live together in relative peace. That led to more friendships forming, over time.
ProMosaik e.V.: Do you think we should give such much power to the USA? Would it not be better to take the veto right from the USA?
Michael R. Burch: I think it would be much better to take the veto away from the permanent Security Council members. But the superpowers do not trust each other, so I do not expect them to give up their vetoes willingly. I’m sure they would veto their vetoes being taken away!
ProMosaik e.V.: If we consider historical facts, it is justice that leads to racial peace, not feelings. Is this peace possible without the involvement of the masses of people?
Michael R. Burch: Yes, I think so. When the United States began to reform its laws and courts, there were a few brave souls who made it happen: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and a relatively small number of people with similar liberal views. The majority of Americans did little or nothing. The attitudes and beliefs of the masses did change over time.