“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. Not just for some, but for everyone.” — Hal David as sung by Dionne Warwick
What if our community spaces were filled with monuments to peace instead of war? What if, during our grade-school years, we learned to admire the people, institutions and movements that stood for peace instead of war “heroes” whose actions prove problematic to so many of us centuries later? What if our understanding of ourselves and our national identity were more about the things we share in common instead of what makes us different?
Perhaps we could celebrate those differences as opportunities to learn instead of pressure to become someone other than who we are.
If our entire cultural heritage revolves around a flag and the Civil War, we haven’t gone back far enough. How did the first Europeans come to the colonies? Did they all come voluntarily? Did some of them come through coercion? Were their homelands stripped away? Were they displaced by greed?
Never miss a local story.
Once we explore the answers to these questions, we can then ask if the processes some European settlers went through sound familiar. Did other groups go through similar processes? Better yet, we can ask ourselves, if we, in this place and time, are helping to perpetuate similar processes today?
If we go back far enough, we will find common threads of origin and experience. We know the Americas existed and thrived with indigenous people before Europeans arrived. We know that other groups came, settled, pioneered and built up this land. History is full of examples of cooperation, peacemaking and regeneration among the tales of violence some of us continue to salute.
Let’s build monuments to the stories of peace. Instead of standing up to pledge allegiance to a flag, a country or a religion, let’s stand to pledge our lives to love, nature and a fierce intention to constantly choose the way of peace.
If we take the Bible as our beginning, some say war is inevitable because it is in the Bible. Some say that man’s inability to get along with his fellow man is also inescapable.
The same Bible, however, teaches in the Book of Genesis that creation came before destruction. We can choose to stay at war or we can choose to go back to imagine a time of sweet creation, when we wondered at the beauty of the Earth and each other, and try our best to reenact it.
If we go back to a time before the Bible, we find that we all originate from a common female African ancestor. This is true, and everything that takes us away from this truth is what leads to war.
We need to go all the way back to imagining ourselves drinking from the same stream, gathering from the same field, planting in the same soil, relying on the same wind to carry the seeds, and caring for the same ecosystems. These processes are universal.
Without that heritage, without the agriculture and the hunting and gathering that came through communal work and survival before, none of us would be here.
What about the Big Bang? Wasn’t it violent? When we talk about the beginning, we have to remember that our universe formed through a process of expansion before the big bang. We can take this metaphorically, and interpret this as a charge, not to fight, but to expand and grow into a new maturity and embark on a century of peace.
What if we declared that the last war we would ever fight as a human race would be the war within our own hearts? What if we walked across religious, political and racial aisles to embrace the unknown, the “weird,” the “strange,” the different? What if ignorance of the other was seen as the poison to be stamped out?
We can use our tax dollars to build community centers, parks and museums of understanding in every town. I believe we can come together. We need to for the sake of everything we love.
Peace is the thing there is just too little of.
Reach Jillean McCommons, a Berea librarian, at firstname.lastname@example.org.