Dona Nobis Pacem

One night in 1967, I picked up a white candle on the campus of Syracuse University and joined a long line of students that moved like a ribbon of continuous light across the dark campus. We did not use the words Dona nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace) as many bloggers are saying across the world on this November 4th day in which we blog for peace. We were, of course, protesting the Vietnam War in those days when many of us sang  “Where have all the flowers gone.”

Since that night of candles and songs, at least 10,960,000 have been killed by wars. “Gone to graveyards every one,” the old Pete Seeger folk song tells us. “When will they ever learn?”

My Scots ancestors once sang—and often still sing—an old song called “The Flowers of the Forest,” a lament about the grief of the women and children after James IV and his 10,000 men died at the Battle of Flodden Field in northern England in 1513.  I wonder if Pete Seeger ever heard the words: “The Flooers o’ the Forest, that fought aye the foremost, The pride o’ oor land lie cauld in the clay.”

Perhaps There’s Hope

Since 1967, we have had many occasions to ask “When will they ever learn?”  Even in these days of terrorists and unstable governments and territorial disputes that seem to have no solutions, there may be hope. In his October 2011 article in Foreign Policy “Think Again: War,”  Joshua S. Goldstein writes that even though 60% of Americans responding to a recent survey thought a third world war was likely, fewer people per year have been dying in wars in years between 2000 and 2011 than in the 1950s through the 1990s.

One reason for the decline is the smaller scale and scope of the conflicts after World War II, Korea and Vietnam. According to Goldstein, “Armed conflict has declined in large part because armed conflict has fundamentally changed. Wars between big national armies all but disappeared along with the Cold War, taking with them the most horrific kinds of mass destruction. Today’s asymmetrical guerrilla wars may be intractable and nasty, but they will never produce anything like the siege of Leningrad.”

Is there reason for hope in such an analysis? Goldstein suggests that the world seems more violent now than it ever did in part because information is more accessible and pervasive. Whether it’s via 24-hour news channels, online news sources, or social networks like Twitter and Facebook, we hear one way or the other about every car bomb, every attack and every atrocity. On such days, I’m still tempted to ask, “When will they ever learn?”

Higher Standards

We still have work to do, and this isn’t it. – Wikipedia Photo

The world, writes Goldstein, also seems more violent because society’s standards have risen. A day’s worth of fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan brought news of battle deaths that were a tiny fraction of the numbers killed per day in World War II. Yet our anger about every five soldiers or civilians killed in recent these conflicts was, it always seemed, much higher than for every 5,000 killed in the 1940s.

We’re less tolerant of violence now. The in-your-face nature of TV war reporting that began during the Vietnam War is showing us in ways we cannot accept where the flowers are going and how they got there. The images out of Iraq showed us more of what we didn’t want to see.

Perhaps we are learning. Perhaps our flowers of the forest will remain in the forest and the day will come when laments and folk songs about war and grief can be left on dusty shelves and slowly forgotten. Until then, we still say Dona Nobis Pacem and hope people are listening.


16 thoughts on “Dona Nobis Pacem

  1. Smoky Zeidel

    Beautiful words, my friend. I did not know about Blog for Peace Day, or I would have prepared something. 8-(

  2. Thank you, Smoky. I heard about it yesterday, but didn’t plan to write about it until I woke up this morning, set the clock back, and saw that I had a fresh new hour of time for an unplanned post.


  3. I love your peace flag. Great commentary, but for the record, let me state that I, personally, have not ever started a war. I don’t think I’ve ever even bloodied anyone. Wars are something politicians and other reprehensible characters do, and never on my behalf, always on their own behalf. So is it you who are listening? Me? No — we are already peaceful creatures. Let the rest of the world catch up to us.

    1. Thanks, Pat. I haven’t started any wars either. My “representatives” seem to think I want them to start wars for me. I guess they weren’t listening. Maybe we’re just preaching to the choir here.

      1. I think we are. On the other hand — you make a good point about the images getting too graphic and that maybe they will tone down their wars to keep from upsetting their electorate. Or not. War is getting more sublte, with weather weapons, psychological warfare, biowarfare.

  4. Very thought-provoking, Malcolm. Marilyn

    Marilyn Celeste Morris, Author, Editor and Speaker Website: Five novels, two non fiction books. All available See my Author Page at Amazon: Vanilla Heart Publishing:: And now, free reads first four chapters of all my books:

    “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” — Ray Bradbury


  5. Thank you for your words of hope. Maybe when everyone realizes what a waste any type of warfare is, it will stop. Peace be with you, now and always.

  6. With the mention of that song, I had to go straight and find it and listen to it…I too used to listen to it a long while ago, and it’s as relevant today as back then! Where have all the flowers gone?

    Thanks for sharing this. Peace to you and yours!

    (A link to your post will be on “Peace Bloggers Unite” later)

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