To Have Peace, First Honor Peace

In PeaceAble on September 11, 2012 at 6:51 pm

War creates heroes more readily and more publicly than peace does.  We honor peacemakers, such as Martin Luther King, only after a lifetime of work — and often only after an untimely death – in pursuit of peace.  Warriors are honored en masse, often for nothing more than membership in the organizations and institutions of war.  We must seek, or develop, ways of honoring peacemakers more frequently and in greater numbers.  We must assert the idea that to work for peace is to work patriotically for the greater good of freedom, democracy, justice and the American way.  To be anti-war is not, as some have suggested in recent times, anti-American.  The peacemakers must reclaim their rightful place under the American Flag.

Suppose we routinely honored peacemakers as we now do warriors. Suppose we had an “army” of well-trained, well-paid, committed professionals dedicated to actions which promote peace.  We could call them the Peacemakers Corps.  The Corps would recruit in high schools and colleges; offer scholarship assistance for college or other post-secondary education.  Recruiters would talk about the specialized training Peacemakers would receive in engineering, medical fields, business, communications, international relations, and languages; advertise the opportunities for travel and enrichment; and promote pride in membership in the Corps.  They would try to attract the best and the brightest to serve their country and give something back for all the privileges they might take for granted as U.S. citizens.

What would the nation do with the Corps?  Is there a fragile election process in an emerging democracy?  Send in the Corps to help organize and monitor the election.  Democracy by ballots, not bullets.  Is there a drought in Africa?  Send in the Corps to distribute water and food, and to dig wells, build viaducts or pipelines or irrigation systems, and help people establish sustainable agriculture.  Assistance that doesn’t come with military fatigues and side arms.  Are two third-world countries engaged in a border dispute that is about to escalate into, or has already become, a shooting war?  Send in the Corps to help with negotiations; or if the war is on, to make certain that the civilian populations have the basic necessities of food, water, shelter, and medical supplies, and are kept out of the line of fire.  The possible role of the Corps in natural disasters, political and social crises, and economic development efforts are almost unlimited.  All of this, of course, would require the cooperation of the world community, and a strengthened United Nations as a peacekeeping body.  But imagine the world’s vision of an America ready to put its enormous resources on the line without tying it to our own big business interests or military might.

And if the Corps did have to be deployed, imagine the news coverage of our brave peacekeepers heading off to represent America in the world’s humanitarian trouble spots.  The images of truly courageous and dedicated young men and women boarding airplanes, saying goodbye to family members, talking about their feelings as they head off to the latest peacemaking mission.  Imagine the nightly pictures, at the height of the crisis, of individual Corps members under the banner “America’s Peacemakers.”  And if someone performed some extraordinary act of compassion or genius; or if, tragically, someone were injured or killed in the line of duty; there would be medals and parades, and streets named after them.  Imagine being able to put on one’s resume or a special license plate, “Member, U.S. Peacemaker Corps.”  Imagine two or three days of every year set aside for parades and balloons and picnics to celebrate those who served their country in peace.  Imagine stone pillars and granite monuments in city parks, with the names of local kids who served as Peacemakers during this crisis or that emergency.

Imagine the citizens who would come home from experiences like that to take their place in the American democracy.  And imagine the generations of new citizens who would be their children.  And equally important, imagine the generations of children around the world whose images of Americans would be formed by the relationships built with Peacemaker Corps members.

A society tells itself, and the world, who it is and what it values by what it celebrates.  If our most public heroes are warriors; if we reserve our most extravagant celebrations for warrior heroes; and if those who toil in the name of peace are given only passing mention; then we tell ourselves and the world that we are warriors first and peacemakers later.  We need to learn how to honor peace publically and extravagantly, so that we can say to ourselves and the world that we care about peace, that it is important for us to do the work of peace, that we are PeaceAble.

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