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I’ve been "for peace" since Vietnam became a part of my personal life in the mid-60s. I put flower stickers on my car (I was very naive) and took them off when, as a young, Marine wife, I was informed that Camp Pendleton found them offensive.
I talked peace and backed the movement. I protested Iraq and never believed the WMD line. I thought I was thoroughly grounded in peace.
It wasn’t until Pacifica Graduate Institute sent out a call for submissions for their Pondering Peace in a World of Turmoil program, that I really stopped to think about what peace means. (The Pondering Peace program happens this weekend ... if you're anywhere close to Santa Barbara, check out this exciting event.)
Recently I read an article about what happened in Syria. The article told the story of how four years of devastating drought led to massive shifts in population from ruined farms (85% of the country’s livestock died) to urban ghettos. Homeless, jobless, hungry people are the fodder of revolution. We think of Syria as a victim of politics and religious differences when it is actually an early blow of climate change and what happens when desperate people are deprived of their basic needs. (For more about what happened in this Florida-sized country, read Imagine Florida.)
As I thought about peace, it suddenly became more than the absence of war. When people don’t have their basic needs met … food, shelter, safety, knowledge, work … they will fight to get it. Of course they will.
Those words had to be part of answer. Then, Barbara Gaughen-Muller, a friend and long-time peace activist, told me about a book she’s working on focused on the idea of “peace begins with me.” That makes sense so I began thinking about what I need to embody in order to truly support peace. The words that came included … gratitude, openness, hope, expression, courage.
However, it’s not just about our physical needs or how we are as individuals. Peace is about relationships and our interactions, how we live together. More words were needed for that part of the picture … equality, justice, compassion, forgiveness, generosity.
These aren’t all the words, of course, but, in the process of thinking about all these levels, I realized that peace isn’t something we do or don’t do (war). It’s about who we are and how we choose to be, individually and with each other.
Each of us is … or can be … a piece of peace. What word would you add as a "piece of peace?"