The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Last week, I wrote a column suggesting there was a greater intelligence at work in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama. I suggested the intention was to help initiate an evolution in our collective consciousness from one of seeing ourselves as separate, thus objects to be dominated and controlled and making war possible, to understanding our inherent oneness, unleashing freedom and co-operation among all of humanity, thus making peace the dominant paradigm. I called this a collective opportunity to "think outside the box".
Such an evolution in consciousness would change the world.
Thanks to the many readers who took part in our discussion last week, and those who shared it with their friends, the article was among the most emailed on the Huffington Post the day it appeared.
Clearly, we all seem to have an opinion on the matter! I hope you'll stay engaged in the conversation as we continue looking in this direction. I can feel my own curiosity and interest being sparked as I do the research necessary to write these posts. There is much to be learned and shared on this subject.
As in any inquiry, the thoughts shared last week were met by many differing points of view. Our varying ways of seeing the world make it all the more interesting. I welcome and encourage your thoughts and ideas, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with mine.
One thing I noticed in the discussion, and this is part of our "conditioned" human nature, is the tendency at times, for people to make wrong, those with whom they disagree. We all do this to some extent; some of us more than others. Part of "waging peace" is learning to respect the opinions of those with whom we differ, without resorting to name-calling, finger pointing or worse, physical violence.
Learning to listen beyond our firmly established filters that dictate what we think before we've even heard what the other person is saying, opens the doors to authentic communication, in which all parties feel heard. This is a skill that can be learned. It takes commitment and practice and the willingness to open and see things differently than the way you've always seen them.
Feeling heard is a major component in conflict resolution, which is a step on the road to waging peace. More about specific steps to waging peace, including conflict resolution in future posts.
Meanwhile, America's evolution from one of the most aggressive military forces on the planet, to using its mighty resources to promote peace at home and abroad, would dramatically alter the equation for the entire world.
Some might say that sounds too idealistic, a Pollyanna pipe dream. There are those who scoff at the very idea of peace as a policy, fearing the U.S. would be end up being run by the United Nations, and be seen as weak and vulnerable. There are those who say peace is for sissies, that it doesn't fit the image of the U.S. as a mighty country with the most powerful military on earth.
They ask, "How could we be the world's policeman and the world's "fairy godmother of peace" at the same time?
Well, why not? Who said we couldn't? We can walk and chew gum at the same time can't we? Why can't we evolve our ability to be peace warriors while maintaining our security? Are we so limited in our thinking we cannot embrace these ideas simultaneously?
Peace is a mind-set that determines how we see the world and the actions we choose to take. We, as a nation, as a people, have not chosen to be peaceful. We are #83 on the Global Peace Index that ranks the nations of the world by their peacefulness and identifies some of the drivers of that peace. The lower the score, the more peaceful the nation. Guess which country is #1? I'll reveal the index scores next week.
"New institutions are needed for the 21st Century, new organizations with a 21st Century mind-set."
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Waging peace is part of that 21st century mind-set. We must learn to trust peace, to see it as something beyond the absence of war. We must learn how to cause peace, discover what are the factors that contribute to a peaceful society. We need the leadership of trained experts in the field of peace and non-violence. They exist, yet you've probably never heard their names. We're going to get acquainted with these people in future posts.
The establishment of a Department of Peace as part of our federal government would help to forward this vision of a 21st century mind-set that embraced non-violence as one of our strategies for securing the future for all mankind. That's exactly what Dennis Kucinich and the 71 co-sponsors of HR 808 intend for the legislation they've introduced to the United States House of Representatives.
Check here to see if your legislator is one of the 71. All are Democrats. Question: Why are there no Republican co-sponsors? Are the Republicans anti-peace?
While such proposed legislation is not a new idea, successfully bringing it into law calls for nothing less than a revolution in our way of thinking.
Efforts to establish a Peace Department have been tried and repeatedly failed since 1792, when noted African American scientist, Benjamin Banneker, and Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, first laid out their plan for the idea.
Similar legislation has been introduced regularly since 1935, yet all efforts have failed. A typical response came from President Nixon in 1969, when 16 Senators and 59 Representatives sponsored legislation in Congress calling for a DOP. Responding in a press conference, Nixon said:
"I consider the Department of State to be a department of peace. I consider the Department of Defense to be a department of peace, and I can assure you that at the White House Level in the National Security Council that is where we coordinate all of our efforts towards peace.
"I think that putting one department over here as a department of peace would tend to indicate that the other departments were engaged in other activities that were not interested in peace."
President Nixon missed the point. But he isn't alone. The powers that be (our representatives in congress) haven't gotten the point yet about the necessity for a DOP. They've conflated pro-peace with anti-war, which are two completely different things. One is oriented around war, the other around peace. The gap in understanding these differences points out how much work we've yet to do in this area.
Peace is more than the absence of war; it is a positive state of being predicated on the presence of a peaceful heart. The mission of the Peace Alliance is to move this realization from the margins of our political dialogue to its rightful, central place within our national understanding. The humanitarian impulse to foster brotherhood and justice is not just a utopian ideal; it is an issue critical to our national security.
The Peace Alliance
Why is it so hard to wage peace? Let's start with the fact that war is highly profitable. A whole lot of people (think defense suppliers like Halliburton and the military contractors like Blackwater) are making trillions of dollars off war. Eisenhower was right when he warned us against the dangers of the military-industrial complex. The military-industrial complex runs our country. We're the big, bad boys with the big, bad toys. We spend more on our military budget per year than the rest of the world combined!
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes ... known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
James Madison, Political Observations, 1795
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has surpassed our involvements in WWI and WWII combined and is approaching that of Vietnam, which was 8 years, 5 months. "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare".
Who says peace is not an important strategy in our security arsenal? The idea of preventing wars in the first place is long overdue as a line of first defense. That is not to say there won't be the need for armed conflict in such a strategy. That ideal will most likely not happen in our lifetime and we must be prepared to use military might when absolutely necessary. But that has been our first line of defense during the past 8 years. We've taken the military option as our only response to conflict when diplomacy might have produced better results. I'm just saying....... it's not about either/or; it's a both/and proposition.
HR 808 was introduced last February, yet it has virtually disappeared from public view since then. Where are the 71 co-sponsors? Will this bill die in committee like all the ones that came before it? Do we have anything to say about whether or not it succeeds? The Peace Alliance thinks we do.
The legislation will pass from bill to law under one condition: that a wave of citizen interest rise up from the American people and make itself heard in the halls of Congress.
Learn how to get involved with their efforts in the campaign for a Department Of Peace here.
From their website, here's what they say about the focus of HR 808:
The sole focus of a U.S. Department of Peace will be the prevention and reduction of violence.
Domestically, the Department of Peace will develop policies and allocate resources to effectively reduce the levels of domestic and gang violence, child abuse, and various other forms of societal discord.
Internationally, the Department will advise the President and Congress on the most sophisticated ideas and techniques regarding peace-creation among nations.
Causing peace is a many-layered subject. Within the limits of space here, we can barely scratch the surface, but we'll take a stab at it in the weeks to come, so I hope you're up for the journey. Personally, I can't think of a topic that has a greater potential impact in our lives than this one.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about how to cause peace, starting with your own life, right where you are. Please drop by the comment section and weigh in, and I'd love it if you did all that other peaceful, co-operative stuff like post this on your FB page, Tweet, Buzz, Digg and Become A Fan. And then, if you've any juice left, drop on by my personal blog and web site, Rx For The Soul, where you can access my personal blog archives and leave a message for me if you'd like personal contact.
And as always, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate you!
Blessings on the path.
Follow Dr. Judith Rich on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dr_judithrich