Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Imagine Peace

I had some vague plans for today's post, but I forgot about Peace Day. When this day came last year, I had only been blogging for a few months, and it was one of my first glimpses of the blogging community. I was surprised to see that many of my favorite blogs, which were so different from each other, had gathered together to think about peace: how to achieve it, what it meant, how it made them feel, and so on. Later that day, when my new friend CEO sent me my own personalized "Dona Nobis Pacem" banner, I felt the connection of blogging. I was amazed that a stranger, hundreds of miles away, would take the time to make something for me. CEO went from being a stranger to being a friend, and blogging went from being a solitary passtime to a community activity that was never far from my mind.

A lot of bloggers are writing about peace today, and their eloquence is inspiring, but I don't really have anything profound to say. I'm not an optimist about peace. There was a time, years ago, when I thought that humans might, one day, be able to live together. I could imagine a time when there might not be any wars in the world. Right now, though, I find it hard to even imagine a time when the United States won't be shipping its children overseas to kill people.

When I was a teacher, I would often have my students read George Orwell's 1984. One of the hardest things for them to deal with was the idea that "War is Peace," and they tended to dismiss this famous quote as empty rhetoric about totalitarian governments. Looking deeper, though, we noticed that war does, indeed, lead to peace. It inspires cohesion, nationalism, and a setting-aside of all the meaningless little things like free speech and the right to assemble. In fact, one could argue that the shortest route to internal peace and security is external conflict.

I wonder, though, if we could claim the converse of Orwell's statement. If War is Peace, might not Peace be War? Maybe, if we really want peace, we will need to approach it as a real war. It's a battle between those who financially benefit from war and those who physically suffer. It's also a battle between those who believe in America's beautiful rhetoric and ideals and those who can't see past its global primacy. In other words, the search for peace is a conflict between the path that our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence promise and the path that our government has chosen to follow.

The gap between these two extremes is so wide that I wonder if it can ever be bridged. I think that, if we hope to find a way across it, we must begin by abolishing the exceptions that we are so inclined to make. There should be no exceptions to our freedom of speech, or our freedom to assemble. There should be no exceptions to our defense of habeas corpus or our prohibitions against torture. Every exception we make is a deterioration of the very freedoms that we claim to honor and a step away from peace. At the end of the day, we cannot protect who we are by destroying the things that make us unique.

And we can't achieve peace by fomenting war.

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  • Very profound indeed! Achieving peace is bound by our ability to work for it. Conflict resolution is so much harder than a neat scrap that ends with a winner.

    The wonderful thing about Mimi's movement is that thousands of bloggers and their readers are putting peace on the table for dissection.

    Wishing you...wait for it...Peace!


    By Blogger Danielle, At November 7, 2007 at 5:21 PM  

  • and you didn't think you had anything profound to say. I beg to differ. Personally, I think peace it the ultimate Ideal. How does one get peace if there is no conflict?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 7, 2007 at 7:48 PM  

  • {{{Crankster}}}

    I wrote a comment over at Open Grove Claudia's blog that's a little economics and a little political science and a little history, and I used your name. You might want to slide over there and pick up where I left off. I mean, you ARE part of the HOPE FOR THE FUTURE, at least in my eyes. nd, I'm rarely wrong about these things.

    By Blogger The CEO, At November 7, 2007 at 10:43 PM  

  • I missed the peace day thinie completely but Its okay It get it right next year

    By Blogger Nosjunkie, At November 8, 2007 at 1:19 AM  

  • Maybe I'm wrong here but I always interpreted 'War is Peace' to mean that continual conflict with a foreign enemy was the route to domestic peace as it focussed the discontent of the populace onto an unknown and anonymous 'other', ensuring a smooth path for government - Orwell's model for this being the Home Front campaign of the 2WW.

    By that definition, peace would inevitably lead to civil war, so the converse would be true.


    By Blogger Glamourpuss, At November 8, 2007 at 11:51 AM  

  • Danielle-
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You're right--in fact, I'd argue that any "winner/loser mindset is bound to undermine peace.

    I think you're right, but the conflict doesn't need to be physical. Isn't it funny that most of us know that fighting is a bad idea, yet we seem to think that fighting between countries is a reasonable way to resolve conflicts?

    I'll give it a peek. Happy Peace Day!

    Hey--you're commenting about it, which means that you're part of it. Gotcha!

    I agree completely, although I'm not advocating civil war. I think I'm more interested in civil discussion!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 8, 2007 at 2:12 PM  

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