by SCOTT WILLIAMS
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
This old adage that defined a movement may be cliché. However, the very idea of what John Lennon was trying to say here is exactly why it is still cliché. In essence, if I can claim to know, what he means is that we have spent roughly 200,000 years as a society trying to solve all of our problems with war, and it has yet to do anything but to create more problems that are then used to justify yet another war.
So, with how little war has accomplished, why don’t we give peace a chance? In all honesty, it may not work, but we will never truly know whether or not peace can solve our problems until we try it. We already know war does not work, but peace might be able to.
I believe that the main culprit as to why we as a society have not yet tried peace is because of the ambiguity of the word. The word alone calls to mind images of love, meditation, and hippies handing out flowers to cops, but for those of us who spent our childhood in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks and the United States’ harsh and quick retaliation, peace has no real tangible meaning to us. It is not only my generation, however.
In just the first eight decades of the 20th century, when most of our parents and grandparents were growing up, there were hundreds of wars in the world, 45 of which resulted in the deaths of at least 32,000 military members, not including the civilian casualties, according to Arthur Westing of the Journal of Peace Research. On top of these deaths, the wars’ effects on the economy, the loved ones of those lost, and those who lived in the areas where war was being raged all add up to a century of meaningless violence and death.
From the shooting of the Archduke Ferdinand to the televised execution of Osama Bin Laden, how would any of us know what peace is, let alone know how to bring it to fruition? The one thing, the absolute only thing, that war has shown us is that it does not work for most of humanity. But if war is not working, and peace may be the solution, the problem that comes forward now is how we try to wage peace.
To me, peace stands for three main ideas: cessation of violence, amity amongst enemies, and an acceptance of diversity. The first idea seems pretty straight-forward. Obviously, if I am using peace as an alternative to war, then a cessation of violence is needed. However, this is where the ambiguity of peacemaking is most evident. If you say you want to stop war, more than likely, people will agree that it is not a great situation, but that it is sometimes necessary.
Yet, the last two ideas are the way that this cessation can become at least partially tangible: amity and acceptance. By amity, I mean friendship, harmony, and cooperation; by acceptance, I mean realizing and being okay with, if not reveling in, the fact that every person on this earth is going to be different from you. Both of these ideals are rooted in looking at our differences under a different light. The only way that we will ever be able to get past wars and borders and othering and discrimination is if we stop seeing an enemy in everyone we meet who happens to fall a little, or a lot, outside what we consider to be right.
If Israel and Palestine stopped viewing each other as enemies and attempted to spark friendship instead, it would be much harder for Israel to invade and destroy Palestinian areas. If those who saw a problem with the queer community realized that their lives were not being ruined in any way by the community, it would become clearer that they are helping to ruin the lives of those in the community.
If more of the white community would stop shielding their ears and eyes from the systematic oppression of all other races that has been occurring since the beginning of the United States, it would be harder to lend their hands to the systems that are oppressing and killing the richly diverse population in this country.
Peace may seem arbitrary in most situations, but the actual practice of peacemaking is simple: make and mend relationships with those who are different. Once that is realized, the only question that remains is why. Why peace? If the end to violence, hatred, and murder is not reason enough, we simply owe it to each other as fellow human beings.
As a nonviolent advocate for peace and an acceptance of diversity herself, Judy Shepard puts it best: “We are all human at the core.” If there is a way to stop hurting each other, why have we not at least tried to do just that?
Why don’t we give peace a chance?