blessed are the peacemakers

Everyone could feel the concussion of the blast. A wave pulsed out from the exploding shell with such force that no one could ignore the explosion…

Everyone could feel the concussion of the blast.

A wave pulsed out from the exploding shell with such force that no one could ignore the explosion even if you had had time to protect your ears from its splitting boom or shield your eyes from the brilliant flash, which lit up the night sky.

Of course, no one had time; the blast was a surprise. A cacophony of exploding salutes had drawn our attention to an intense fountain of falling light pouring out across the St. Lawrence River from us, over on Ste. Héléne’s Island.

No one noticed in the riot of sound and colour, that one of the mortar tubes behind a protective two-metre-high blast wall had launched a huge chrysanthemum shell.

No one noticed that is until, seemingly right above us, it burst.

A collective gasp rose from the crowd around me on a riverfront strip of asphalt sandwiched between the six lanes of Rue Notre Dame and the tracks of the Montreal Harbour Railway.

Cheers and clapping followed immediately as the golden comet trails died out above us.

Foti International Fireworks, of Australia, put on quite a show the night before last. It was one of the 10 national groups invited to compete in this year’s L’International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition. Each team presents a pyro-musical program of a minimum of 30 minutes, which attempts to synchronize the fireworks to a musical score.

Fortunately it is broadcast by a local radio station for the tens of thousands of us that didn’t pay to sit in the bleachers at the La Ronde amusement park.

An estimated total of 3 million people will have seen this year’s fireworks at La Ronde, lined up on the Jacques Cartier Bridge high above the site, or like me found a place to sit and enjoy the spectacle from the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

About half way through Wednesday’s program a man followed by a woman wearing a hijab with two small children in tow left our area.

Maybe the noise was too much for the kids or they had to quickly find a bathroom. But could the flash and bang reminded them of the conflicts raging across a distant homeland?

Over the last week, several thousand evacuees from Lebanon have arrived in Montreal along with others leaving Israel. Surely some of them were among the tens of thousands watching the Australians light up the Quebec night sky.

How would they see it; as a beautiful display of creativity or a reminder of the horror they left behind?

The cost of the average of 4,000 to 5,000 comets, girandolas, dahlia shells, fireflys and the scores of other pyrotechnic devices used per show certainly doesn’t come close to an F-18 payload of the bunker buster bombs.

One on-line site had the cost per bomb, a load of which the USA is sending this week to Israel, at US$147,500 without the shipping included.

Of course the F-18 costs more than $32 million depending on the frills and extras ordered.

Last month the Harvard Magazine, www.harvardmagazine.com, ran an

article entitled the $2-Trillion War. In it author Craig Lambert, reports on a study by Linda Bilmes, a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, that placed the full cost of the Iraq War at that astronomical US-economy-damaging sum.

“Say you spent $500 billion and you bought a war,” Bilmes argues. “What would have happened if you had spent $500 billion and bought something else?

“That money might have gone into investments — in infrastructure like roads, for example, that would have stimulated the American economy more in the short run, and would also have long-term growth benefits.

In the authors’ “moderate” scenario, the combination of expenditure switching from civilian to war outlays ($200 billion) and growth impacts ($250 billion) drains $450 billion from the economy.

“It’s hard to imagine any way of spending that money that would have a less positive impact on the US economy,” Bilmes laments.

That was Iraq. How about Lebanon? Countless homes and businesses damaged or destroyed; bridges, airports, and other infrastructure bombed, plus social services like hospitals put out of commission, what is the total going to be there?

“We know the cost is in billions,” a Lebanese government spokesperson noted this week. “But it’s very difficult to estimate more precisely because there are many places we can’t reach.”

If our leaders can’t find an alternative to war maybe we need to find new leaders.

Many peace groups such as the Christian Peacemakers, www.cpt.org, Project Ploughshares, www.ploughshares.ca, Pax Christi, www.paxchristi.org and others deserve our support in the quest for an enduring piece.

The fireworks display ended with an exciting, sky-filling barrage of huge multi-coloured shells with golden, strobing pistils and cheers from all of us.

If we could, hopefully, just learn to co-exist peacefully, maybe, just maybe, we won’t go out with a bang.