"Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means." ~ Ronald Reagan
As a child of the 1960s, I comprehend all too well the purpose of protest. When a circumstance or an event seemed unfair or unjust, rallying citizens in the streets was a common scene. Almost on a daily basis, demonstrations were held as part of the anti-Vietnam War movement. The old television screens of the era portrayed images of protesters carrying signs about ending the war. Phrases such as, "give peace a chance" or "make love not war" were uttered, and artfully designed peace signs became an emoji of the period.
During this time of discord, I recall my first argument with my Dad. It resulted post the tragic events at Kent State. After hearing about the shootings of students by members of the Ohio National Guard, my anger surged. At the age of fourteen, I spewed my opinion about the appalling incident. Dad on the other hand spoke words of justification. In his mind, he felt the demonstrating youth had crossed the line. On hearing Dad's comments, I lashed out at him in anger. I recall moving toward him as if readying for battle. Without any thought or hesitation, I squared off with Dad, and words of hatred were levied against my beloved father.
In the days that followed, my anger continued to flare. My defiant stance required that all involved be held accountable. It wasn't until Dad sat me down to talk about the shooting incident and my reaction to it, that I came to initially understand the concept of peaceful accord. During the next few minutes, Dad explained the premise. He related that peaceful accord is defined as an official agreement between parties to end conflict and come to peace. He indicated what matters most, is the manner in which discord is resolved. He related he had served during World War II and witnessed first-hand the causes and affect upon humanity. As he spoke, I saw his eyes fill with emotion, as if recalling a distant memory.
As Dad shared his views about our country, I sensed his great pride at being an American. Listening to his words, I felt an awareness take hold. By no means did I agree with his stance, but rather, I learned an important lesson about listening. When our conversation ended, my mind had not changed about the incident. In that moment of revelation however, I learned to be more respectful of other's views and in my dialogue as well.
As I watched the 2016 presidential election unfold, I was often taken back by the angry words spewed by those who are supposed to be our leaders. In one speech after another the words of hatred echoed across town halls and during interviews with national media. Even during the debates, the animosity was apparent. Instead of providing details about strategy, the candidates behaved like bullies on the attack. At times, I was embarrassed by both their behavior and considered if either was fit to serve as president.
Post the closing of polls, I switched on the television to view and listen as the election results played out. Like many, I felt shocked by all that transpired. The outcome was not expected. In listening to the reporters share story after story about the two candidates, it was often about the hateful rhetoric displayed. Even the political analysts took turns poking fun at the subject. When I finally went to bed that night, I found it hard to rest with so many thoughts in my mind.
The next morning I awoke to various unfiltered opinions of newscasters, family members, friends, and individuals that I barely know. Their posts streamed across social media. Once again, words of hatred were spewed. In reading the innumerable posts play out across the screen, listening to the speeches of politicians and elected officials, and watching demonstrations begin, I was reminded of that long ago day when hurtful words interfered with an important relationship. As my eyes filled with tears, I recalled the lesson learned from Dad about peaceful accord.
Since the onset of the Vietnam War, the turmoil in our nation has not been so apparent. Daily news reports portray the failing system that pits one against the other. Instead of embracing as brothers and sisters with varying views, we wage a verbal war and engage in violent altercations. Rhetoric incites division and continued segregation of class, gender, race, religion, and other factors. If we are to become united as one nation, it is time to move in a favorable direction and improve quality of life for one and all.
As the days pass post this presidential election, it is my hope that fellow citizens move in a direction of peace. Regardless of political views, or party affiliations, this must be a time of restoration. With our country in danger from a myriad of outside elements, we must find the means to come together on common ground and not remain a nation of separation. In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, "I destroy my enemy when I make them my friend."
At this point, the election results are the election results, the president-elect is the president-elect, and no amount of verbal conflict or violent behavior will change the course. As fellow citizens take to the streets and share views in person or via social media, it is important to do so in a manner befitting our nation. The hue and cry of all voices should be heard - and with a sense of respect in mind.
The entire world looks to America as the land were freedom reigns. As we express the freedoms afforded, let us be mindful of how Americans are viewed. Let us all serve as ambassadors of peace and give a shining example of peaceful transition regardless of political views.
If violence begets violence, is not the same concept true that violent words can incite violent behavior? I was raised to believe that one voice is capable of prompting change in the multitude. As such, be the voice that promotes peaceful accord throughout our nation.