War Is Weaponized Confusion

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A select few who materially benefit from war intentionally muddy the otherwise clear waters of what our responsibilities are to each other as humans—to care for each other and the Earth.

Melbourne Gaza protest (Latuff cartoon).jpg
Emily Franko is the Local Peace Economy Coordinator at CODEPINK.

“People don’t know what to believe right now.”

I received these words from someone I love deeply, as they talked about what’s happening in the world. Without it being explicitly said, I knew they were talking about the genocide in Gaza.

For them, though, there was uncertainty about what to call it, how to name the violence that is happening there—a stark contrast to many who, since October 7th, have called Israel’s actions a genocide and knew what was coming, if the world did not stop it from happening.

I recently learned that the word “war” has roots in the Proto-Indo-European word meaning “to confuse.” When I heard this, I felt something in my body: a resonance in my core that, I’ve learned with time and attentiveness, often alerts me that a truth, or at least something to pay attention to, has just landed within me.

A state of war is a state of confusion—a confusion about what’s important, what matters, what’s possible for how we live together in the world. But it’s not just a neutral confusion; it’s a weaponized confusion. When a select few who materially benefit from war intentionally muddy the otherwise clear waters of what our responsibilities are to each other as humans—to care for each other and the Earth—they create a generalized state of confusion that leads to a collective state of indecision, or even perhaps a collective freeze response.

If this feels foggy, perhaps bring it closer to home: when we say we are at war with ourselves, what we often mean is that we are deeply confused about something—that we lack clarity about how to relate to various parts of ourselves that seem to be in contradiction. When I am in this state, I’m usually stuck in indecision and end up doing nothing, until I either receive new information or can bring enough awareness to the fact that I’m in a freeze state, tend to it, and invite in more parts of myself that have other wisdom to offer.

The U.S. government is skilled at creating the conditions for confusion in its people. In the case of Palestine, we’ve seen this through the media—using words like “war,” “battle,” “self-defense,” and “anti-Semitism” rather than “genocide,” “collective punishment,” “attacks on civilians,” and “solidarity with Indigenous peoples.” The government has confused the U.S. population enough so that many people with Ukrainian flags in their yards also support Israel, blind to the hypocrisy of seeing the Ukrainians as oppressed but not the Palestinians. This, however, is steeped in racism, fueled by the ways our hearts and minds have been weaponized by propaganda to empathize with one group but not another, despite the parallels in the situations they face.

But this intentional confusion starts much earlier, as we learn about things like the first Thanksgiving in our preschool classrooms and the U.S.’s unilateral role as the “good guy” in any military action we’ve ever been a part of through high school. The confusion is perpetuated in what we don’t learn about, too, such as the systematic separation of Indigenous children from their families by the U.S. government during the Native American Boarding School era, or the Sand Creek Massacre—one of many massacres of Indigenous people by white settlers for the purpose of stealing their land—that occurred just a few hours’ drive from where I live.

I offer this perspective as a white-bodied person, as a descendant of European immigrants, as a settler on Turtle Island. For many people, particularly people of color, this history has always been clear. Still, this is the confusion that is pervasive in our culture and that I continue to need to sift through. With $1.5 trillion a year behind it, the U.S. war machine has a gravitational pull that continues to draw me in, as it plays to my needs and desires for safety, wellbeing, and belonging. In my experience, there is no arrival at a perfect state of clarity (perfectionism is a tool of the war economy, after all). The war economy is pernicious in its shapeshifting, and I still get confused. Just as much as I live in the war economy, the war economy lives in me.

But there is, I believe, an antidote to the barrage of weaponized confusion constantly thrust at us by the U.S. government, by the public education system, by the mainstream media. The antidote is a different center of gravity, and it’s one that’s close to home. When we root ourselves in the local—in what’s happening in our communities—we are far less susceptible to be used by the war economy to perpetuate its lies.

This center of gravity—something we call the local peace economy—draws us closer not because of its mass, like the war economy, but because of its proximity. Here, we can find some ground, root ourselves, and trust in the wisdom of fractals that adrienne maree brown teaches: that what happens at the small scale reverberates to the large scale. We don’t need a comprehensive understanding of the war economy to do so; this may come in time, as we deepen our relationships with our communities and feel the ways the war economy is present there. What we do need is a willingness to show up, both as a learner and as someone with something to offer. We are all both (and much more). Where is your community fragmented and in need of repair? What can you offer to its healing?

When we deepen and expand our roots in the local, we create the conditions for more clarity-and more peace. Remember, there is no point of arrival. Both the clarity itself and the local peace economy require consistent cultivation, like a garden. But when we know what’s true and present in our communities, when we know what’s possible when we center care as the way forward, we will more readily see through the lies when violence is being committed in care’s name—because we know what real care feels like in our bodies, in our bellies, in our neighborhoods, with each other.

If you want to learn more about the local peace economy, you can download a digital version or purchase a physical copy of The Local Peace Economy Workbook.

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