Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Say No

Reading an article from a Canadian newspaper, the Vancouver Sun, where the Irish Noble peace laureate, Mairead Maguire, had been interviewed, I was impacted by her words. She was awarded her prize for her work in ending the fighting in Northern Ireland. No small feat. One quote “ We must create the idea that to even think of war is horrific” struck a cord in me. This makes all kinds of sense. Why is this not the dominant idea? Is what has happened an ongoing numbing inside of us that accepts - war is part of life? It’s been around so long we think it’s normal instead of “horrific.”

She compared it to the perception about smoking and how in a relatively short time smokers went from being “cool to being pariahs.” That with education, perceptions, like the one on smoking, long held can change. Not surprisingly one of the main obstacles in the perception of peace vs war is TV and its far-reaching influence. The amount of violence that a child is exposed to continues to grow exponentially. Research has shown that of “acts of physical violence increased by 378 per cent, over the eight years between 1993 and 2001” with children witnessing an average of “40 violent acts per hour.” That is frightening. What role does this play in delaying peace to some future possibility?

Another quote from the article rang true , “We have to start to disarm our own minds and look at the fact that there are always alternatives to violence.” This seems so obvious but somehow we overlook what is right in front of us. We think we’ve always settled differences this way so we always will. We have normalized war. Ms. Maguire is among good company with other noble laureates and those advocating that unless citizens have a chance to voice a vote - no country should not be allowed to go to war. Sounds fair to me. We seem to have forgotten that it is the people that are paying for war. I wonder if it was clearly delineated in our taxes….”and this much of your earnings are being paid to the military” if it would help us see our part. We have often detached ourselves while we send our men off to far away places. There is craziness about it when I think about it.

In my own life things have mellowed. It’s not to say I never get angry but I have much less of a tendency to want to make a scene. I want peace now. It wasn’t always that way. Like the famous line from the Nez Pearce Indian, Chief Joseph, who after years of fighting said “I will fight no more forever”, such simple words with a power to strike at the heart of the situation. Someone has to be the first to say No. Which brings me to the title of the article in the Vancouver Sun that caught my eye in the first place: “If We Want Peace, We’re Going to Have to Learn to say No.” That would be no to war. Any war. All war. There is always another alternative.

We have to remember that.


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