Slaying the Ram

In his “Parable of the Old Man and the Young,” Wilfred Owen retells the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac. Abraham stretched forth his knife, and an angel called out to him saying not to lay a hand on his son, telling him to offer a nearby ram instead. In Owen’s telling, the ram is named Pride, and the old man actually refused to offer it up. Instead, “he slew his son/ And half the seed of Europe, one by one.” Owen tells us that the huge death tolls of the First World War happened because Europe’s leaders repeatedly chose national pride over the compromises of diplomacy.

Our friend Jim Walsh argues that Iran and the United States are more alike than either will admit. Both nations are notable in his mind for their pride and their claims of uniqueness.

That is why it is all the more remarkable that, despite great anxiety and uncertainty at every step of the process, our countries have negotiated a diplomatic agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program and ease international sanctions. For once, it seems, our leaders have chosen to sacrifice some of our pride for the greater goal of peace.

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