“It is not enough to say ‘We must not wage war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but the positive affirmation of peace.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
If you’re an idealist like me, you may have heard it, “Oh, all your talk about peace and stuff, come on now, you know that’s all just a bunch of hippie buillsh*t, don’t ya?”
Or perhaps they don’t say it directly. Sometimes the eye roll gives it away. Or the awkward silence. And you know what they’re thinking.
You see, building peace often doesn’t fit within the framework of understanding for most people. Peace, or any means to its end, seems unrealistic to many people.
Peace is complicated; war is easy. We don’t like them. Let’s smash them! Problem solved, right?
You see, war is glorified in history books. We are entertained by TV and movies as we, the ‘good guys,’ obliterate our enemies. There is much fanfare involved. We erect monuments to celebrate war ‘heroes.’ We are taught that war is a necessary evil.
So then, how do we respond to the majority of people who do indeed think building peace is little more than a heaping pile of hippie buillsh*t?
Well, here are some ideas, put in simple terms so you can easily communicate them to the general masse of people conditioned to believe the lies that bring us to war.
1. Building peace contributes to a solution. War is a clusterfu*k.
War is a wholesale clusterfu*k with devastating consequences for all involved. War doesn’t produce peace; it creates more war and violence. It destroys lives and makes everyone less safe. War propaganda is the only thing that will tell you otherwise.
On the other hand, if you build peace, you are actively working towards a solution. And if we are seeking solutions instead of creating more problems, then everyone is better off.
2. War kills innocent people. Peace saves lives.
A simple fact: the human cost of war is devastating. At least 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century. And while people often focus on the safety of ‘our troops,’ whichever side you may be on in any given war, it is civilians who suffer and die the most.
Let’s compare that to the death rate of peace….. hmmmm…. well, we’re still at zero.
3. Peace produces greater equality and justice at home. War widens inequality.
War economies drain public funding from healthcare, education, and social services. If you look at Trump’s discretionary budget proposal just released, you’ve got 55% of the budget on military spending. That’s absurd! Funds spent on war are funds drained from education, agriculture, housing, justice, and energy, amongst others.
At the same time, institutions of war prey on poor and marginalized communities. I never saw any military recruiters in my private high school, though I have friends from ‘the other side of town’ for whom military recruiters had an active and aggressive presence on campus. We send our poor to kill and die and drain funding for public services from their communities. Meanwhile, politicians and companies in the war economy amass huge amounts of wealth.
Building peace ensures sufficient public funding for everyone to have adequate access to healthcare and quality education while making available funds to support a broad range of social services. Peace economies stimulate a more vibrant economy with greater opportunities for young people from poor and marginalized communities, and in so doing, contribute to the creation of a more equal and just society.
4. Military training and war distort the humanity of soldiers. Building peace protects the psychological wellbeing of persons in military service.
We raise our children to believe that killing is wrong. If we see aggressive tendencies in them, many would consult a psychiatrist. Young people who join the military then are trained to be unfeeling, killing machines.
Some of you may have witnessed friends or relatives return from war more overtly racist than before they left. I know I have. This is because war is inherently racist. To justify the killing of another (or the idea that one may have to kill another), the soldier must internalize a view of the enemy that is sub-human. War distorts the human experience.
Noting high rates of PTSD and suicide amongst soldiers and veterans alike, the experience of war is traumatic. Peace protects the psychological wellbeing of soldiers, saving lives on and off the battlefield. Building peace, in itself, shows more concern for the wellbeing of military personnel than does support for war.
5. War teaches children to be racist and violent. Building peace teaches children to reject hate.
I was a child when the Gulf War was in full swing. Images of the war were all over the TV. It was a hot topic of discussion amongst adults at the dinner table, at family events, and at social gatherings. We like to pretend our children don’t see or hear these things, that it doesn’t affect them, but we’re just kidding ourselves.
Discussion about how we should just ‘bomb Iraq off the map’ was the talk of my playground growing up. That can’t be healthy… or normal. And while the blanket labeling of brown people from that region as ‘terrorists’ was not yet en vogue as I’m certain it is on playgrounds across America today, the sentiment was the same.
A culture at war teaches its children to be racist and violent. No amount of pretending will change this simple fact. It is a byproduct of war, and it is unavoidable. Being actively opposed to war and involving yourself in efforts to build peace is the only way to teach the young ones in your life to reject such hate.
6. War and militarization devastate the environment. Peace protects and preserves our earth.
Most of us are aware of the environmental destruction wrought on countries at war. But the environmental devastation of war and militarization in and of itself go far beyond that. Massive quantities of bombs dropped during war poison land and water for generations. And mass networks of military bases, vehicles, and operations are not without enormous environmental cost. The act of maintaining large militaries not only releases large quantities of toxins into the land and sea but also emits devastating amounts of greenhouse gasses.
The largest consumer of oil in the world today is the U.S. military and the U.S. Department of Defense has a larger annual carbon footprint than most countries on earth. Abolishing war and deposing systems that produce militarization are both essential in the fight against climate change.
Find ways you can build peace in the world around you. Download my free handout 198 Actions for Peace.