Friday, October 26, 2007

Peace Begins With Me

I recently began to wonder if so many Americans are against the war, why a larger peace movement isn’t sweeping this nation. I guess after the Vietnam experience I am somewhat spoiled by what the power of the people can do. I began thinking about the differences between then and now and I was able to come up with a few. The first is that during Vietnam there was never a direct assault against America. There was that whole Tonkin Gulf incident, but that again was over there. The times were different; there was more of an activist spirit then. There was so much that seemed wrong with America and the government. But in the end I finally settled on something that has been troubling me for a long time.

I believe there will be no peace in Iraq, Iran, or anyplace else in the world from us or for us. The problem is not the terrorist threat, the Bush administrations false justifications for war, or our fascists’ tendencies. No, the answer is much deeper and therefore much more difficult to express. The answer in my opinion is that we (Americans) are not at peace with ourselves. We do not understand peace and in some ways I think it frightens us. The peace that I am speaking of is the internal peace that allows one to sit quietly and be ok being who the person is. Too many of us despise peace; we mistake it for boredom and try to quench it with activity or mindless entertainment. We constantly bombard it with noise and images, anything to make it go away. We are not a peaceful nation right now.

We are at war with ourselves. We are at war with our children, our neighbors, and each other. For months I have watched the blogosphere explode into a war zone of competing ideas, philosophies, and belief systems. These conflicts in and of themselves are a normal part of give and take in a democracy, but what is transpiring is a viciousness that is not. Simple misunderstandings are elevated to the level of personal vendettas. There has developed a gang mentality where groups descend down on anyone who has the gall to question their interpretation of the facts.

How can we expect to have peace in the world, in our homes, or anywhere else if we do not have peace within ourselves? Peace is not some ideal that we are able to give and take like so much merchandise, it is an internal calm that permeates one’s life and becomes that life. I heard that the Dalai Lama was visiting and when asked what he wanted most it was peace. Many believed it to mean in Tibet or in the world in general, but what he really means is this.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.[1]

I think the attacks on 9/11 opened a fissure within our nation and within ourselves. For many it was the first time they had been confronted in such a catastrophic way with those who don’t like America much. For many we were torn between trying to understand why and wanting to extract revenge. I think to this day we are still conflicted by the attack and our response to it. Would it have been more palpable had the war and occupation of Iraq gone better? Yes, but would that have removed the illegitimacy of it? The evidence of this is the relative ease that this country was led into war. Oh yeah, we complain now of how we were tricked, but what I know about being tricked is that no one can trick me if I don’t want to be tricked.

The thing I remember about the Vietnam era was that despite our many differences, there was an unnatural peace that permeated the movement. It’s hard to describe to anyone who was not there or a part of it, but inside we knew that our cause was just and it gave us a peace. Even though there was smoke and tear gas all around and cops with clubs and guns, there was peace. It was also in our civil rights movement. Our purpose gave us peace.

In today’s hurry up, got to do more world, it seems strange to hear these things I’m sure, but it was there and today it is not there. I shouldn’t say it is not there, it isn’t there in sufficient enough strength to overcome the forces of conflict that afflict us all. I suggest we all take a moment to search inside ourselves and see what conflicts we are fighting. You will find them in the silence of your mind and in the quiet of your heart, begin to resolve and make peace with them. We must begin to turn down the noise within us and choose peace.

I know for me I had a very difficult time coming back to peace. It was difficult learning how to once again accept peace. For some reason my nature preferred conflict to peace, activity to rest. I believe as more and more of us find our own peace we will be able to bring peace to the world. It is impossible for someone in conflict with themselves to give out peace. Let us begin to find peace and then allow that peace to flow out from us to the world. Remember hearing and believing all these things about peace, where did they go? We allowed them to be taken from us by the world. The world of commerce, the world of busyness, the world of conflict has stolen these things from us and it is time we took them back.

Peace, yes it begins with me and with you. If you want a peaceful world, learn to live in peace with yourself.


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