When I was eight, I began exploring more of the neighborhood, soon to find how easy it was to get lost, and worried.

One day I came up against a gang of other eight-year olds. The biggest boy promised to make me a member if I had a fist fight with one of his chums. Even eight-year olds know when to move on, and I told the boy that I couldn't right now, but maybe tomorrow.

As I crossed the street and walked up the hill toward home, I remember worrying if any of those kids would call out to me or follow and taunt me with other offers.

These days, I wonder more about whether bigger and stronger countries will bully smaller and weaker ones into situations that may compromise their current customs, manner of being, distinctive ways of expressing themselves, or their very form of existence, and if the smaller ones also worry and feel the overwhelming intimidation as they, too, turn and walk away.

I don't remember if and when I actually ever felt empowered enough to state my true feelings without fear of disapproval or reprisal, but I'm trying to get comfortable with it. And I'm finding that I'm opinionated about the state of the world because it's my world, too.

All through Woody Guthrie's travels -- freight hopping, hitchhiking, walking -- he met with folks who talked about tolerance and the advantages of working together. Like Woody, I agree that cooperation generates trust, trust leads to acceptance, and acceptance, which is the result of love, should not be an issue. War is for those who lack imagination.


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