I am old enough to have grown-up during the 60’s and early 70’s. For many of us who grew up during this era, the era shaped our world views: views which have remained with us to this day. During the 60’s and early 70’s, we had options. The generations during this era split according to one’s view of the Vietnam war; overwhelmly it seemed the youth of this era opposed the war. “Peace” was our mantra, the peace sign was our badge: worn simultaneously as an act of rebellion and as a symbol of a higher ideal; we literally wore it on our sleeves, and elsewhere. Hippies looked like we imagined Jesus to look like and for some of us brought up in religious households Jesus was a peacenik: that was enough to confirm for us that the peace movement was a correct movement. To worship peace, to strive for peace was an alternative for us, for others the alternative was to support the War. The thing is, there was an alternative: the division between the peacemakers and the warriors at least gave peace a fighting chance.
Today, there seem to be no options: only violence. Where is the peace movement? Where is MLK? Where is John Lennon? How is it that Jesus no longer stands for peace but rather a cultural symbol that we should fight and kill for? It is not clear that today’s younger generations see peace as an option. They have known only violent games, violent entertainment, mass shootings, endless war, crass political speak, non-civil discourse, an NRA gone crazy on steroids, and now: hyper nationalism; all of which, without a peace option, can only lead us to one fateful conclusion: war on an ever broadening scale, perhaps civil war in our streets. Peace, conciliation, civil discourse: both in the international and domestic realms, seems to have escaped our consciousness.
Peace, however, is an option. It needs to be re-introduced into our consciousness. Like any idea, however, it has to be promoted, it has to be believed possible. A peace consciousness, a peace spirit, can grow when fed through civil discourse, through speaking up, through moral suasion, through the courage of individuals unafraid to speak of higher ideals and possibilities. It is the responsibility of our generation, and those of likemindedness in the younger generations to take a stand for peace, to make peace an option: sooner, hopefully, rather than later, because later does not look very encouraging.
It is not unpatriotic to speak of peace; it may in fact be the highest act of patriotism. To promote peace is to protect the lives of our service members, it is a restraint against the inevitable slide into fascism and the decline of civil liberties associated with a state which depends on brute force to maneuver its way in the world. Nor is to speak of peace an act of cowardice: it is the contrary. To stand for peace in a popular culture saturated in violence, is an act of courage. To stand for peace is, perhaps, our last chance to preserve whatever is left of the higher ideals associated with being an American: freedom of thought, freedom of expression, individual courage. “Give Peace a Chance”: speak-out for peace.