Today, 35K people are blogging for peace

“When your fight has purpose—to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent—it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling—when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event—there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.” – ― Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife

(I’m not an official blogger for peace, check Mimi Writes if you want to be a member and use the official logos.)

The quote from Téa Obreht suggests one reason why war is so difficult to stamp out.

My introduction to the realities of war came from reading All Quiet on the Western Front when I was in high school. I found this novel to be so graphic, I could not comprehend how anyone who fought in a war, observed a war or read that book could possibly support any politician calling for war. I won’t read it again.

I felt the same way after reading the equally repellant Johnny Got His Gun. “Hawks,” I wanted to say, “this is what war does to people.” Along with many others, I learned about the unnecessary and immoral firebombing of Dresden when I read Slaughterhouse Five. Cynically, I wondered how many of those who raged at Sherman’s approach to war thought what we did to Dresden was somehow justifiable.

We don’t always hear the anguished stories of those who fight and return because they can’t or won’t talk about what happened over there. I’ve written elsewhere that I think the real casualties are those who survive so that they can go through the hell of the battle every night in their dreams. Perhaps we learn a little from war reporting, and later from historical novels and nonfiction accounts. Perhaps if we spent one day in Ukraine, we would become doves forever; but I doubt it.

Dresden, where 25,000 people were slaughtered.

Kurt Vonnegut, wrote in, Slaughterhouse-Five, “You know — we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. ‘My God, my God — ‘ I said to myself, ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade.'”

And so it usually is. We imagine there’s glory in it. There is not. The idea of glory is the sham that sends the babies off to fight and that celebrates their work if they return. They never return, actually, because they will never mentally escape the slaughterhouse of battlefields and the cities like Dresen that got in the way.

Perhaps if we listened to their nightmares and shared their PTSD, we could become doves forever and–as we used to say (and sing)–“give peace a chance.”

When it comes to a prospective war, your thoughts about the wrongness of it matter.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Vietnam War novel At Sea.


Oops, a day late blogging for peace

“Ending the scourge of violence in the United States and across the planet requires more than suppressing violence. Lasting peace requires its active and systematized cultivation at every level of government and society. The U.S. Department of Peace will coordinate and spur the efforts we need to make our country and the world a safer place. Nothing short of broad-scale investment and government reorientation can truly turn things around.” – Marianne Williamson

While I doubt that Marianne Williamson will be elected President or, if she were, that her proposed cabinet-level Department of Peace would ever be established, I like her ideas about this. I hope that whoever becomes President will seriously consider the idea that constantly spending and preparing for war is an obsolete response to world crises.

So many of our policies are confrontational that they tend to lead toward fighting words, as though the world is an old-style western movie where everyone carried a gun and people shot first and asked questions later.

In my view, every list of New Year’s resolutions should begin with:  I will never take another life in anger.

If I were to add a second proposed resolution, it would be: I will work within my community to get rid of police units that are more heavily armed than SEAL teams and push for departmental policies that require that police officers must always shoot to kill if they have to draw their weapons.

The reasons for police department policies for lethal force are well known. Yet, I believe they are misguided if they are the default approach to firing a weapon. In my view, in a police officer is so bad a shot that he cannot disarm or disable a perpetrator without killing the individual, then s/he isn’t qualified to carry a gun.

Internationally, most of the wars that we’ve been involved in since Korea were none of our business. These wars have not been declared wars, but ongoing police actions or quick-strike actions based on the sacred words “national security.” We did not need to be involved in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, and multiple other world hot spots. Our troops are dying for what, exactly? Foreign oil? The dispute between rival branches of Islam? Fighting drug cartels in foreign countries?

Our young men and women are dying for such things. I always support our troops, but seldom support what they’re ordered to do. Frankly, I think they should stay at home and that our military budget should be greatly reduced.

I wonder what percentage of the population believes that for all of our military interventions and threats our world is safer not than it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. I don’t think it is. It’s not just increased terrorism and hot spot areas, but the constant talk about an ever-looming World War III.

The United States has the power to defuse the world’s tensions without parking an aircraft carrier off another nation’s coast or overflying another country with B-52 bombers. We can do better than that. Doing better won’t be easy because so many people are “programmed” to see conflicts as military matters rather than diplomacy matters,

It’s a cultural thing, I think. “Kill people because that will teach them a lesson.” Nobody has ever told me what that lesson is.



Is world peace possible?

Most people don’t think so.

Yet today, many people are blogging for peace. Are these bloggers naïve or stupid?

I can’t say. The pen, some say, is mightier than the sword. But, as I see it, the pen is a lot slower. If somebody points an AR-15 at me in a shooter incident and I write the words “Don’t shoot” on a piece of paper, what’s the likely result?

Perhaps those words will be found after I’m dead and perhaps they’ll turn into a viral message of sorts that will cause many people to ask themselves whether hatred is getting them anywhere and whether they really want this country to be engaged continuously in shooter incidents, or in multiple police actions around the globe with names nobody knows that are all listed as “on-going” online synopses of armed conflicts.

The average person on the street cannot get past the spider’s web of rationale for every so-called conflict or peace action, much less the words “national security” which are stamped on every bomb we drop and every missile we fire. Perhaps blogging for peace does not mean–as some protesters thought during the Vietnam War–that we should advocate singing Kumbuyah with the “bad guys” in hopes that there will be a miraculous cessation of hostilities.

Maybe blogging for peace means demanding and electing Senators, Representatives, and Presidents who are in office to carry out the aims of the people rather than carrying out their own aims. That means transparency. That means not stamping the words “national security” on everything those in power want to do and then using that designation as a rationale for invading a country or spying on our own citizens.

Maybe blogging for peace means electing a Congress composed of people who support term limits so that we don’t have an entrenched group of people who supposedly represent us but who in reality play political games. Maybe it means increasing the term of Representatives to four years so that they’re not spending our money 24/7 for their next election rather than representing us.

Maybe blogging for peace means getting the people’s power back to that those whom we elect are accountable to us rather than asking us to support their ideas and policy suggestions (that change over time).  No, direct democracy probably isn’t possible, but I do think our Senators and Representatives should do what their constituency tells them to do, not what they want to do for good or ill.

If we as a people want peace, we have to believe it’s possible. We need people in Washington, D.C. who understand that they work for us along with new legislation compels them to do so for limited terms in office. Some say we need the Second Amendment to fight against our own government if necessary. Interesting idea, but I doubt that the guns in our cabinets are much of a deterrent against an airstrike or a tank in the neighborhood. We do, however, need a stronger ammendment that limits what the federal government can do without the population’s approval. What we have now, doesn’t cut it.

I do think the Federal government is more the problem rather than the solution because we gave it the power and now we can’t control it. I can say I want peace, but then my representative votes against peace for his or her own reasons. S/he should be fired because–as we keep hearing–s/he works for me. Having a vote is not enough. It’s too slow to stop the damage.

Some said the Vietnam War changed Americans as a people. They may be right. But it didn’t change our government who just can’t stop getting involved in similar battles around the world that are wasting lives and dollars and having nothing to do with our safety as a nation. As a pacifist, I think both political parties have run amok.

If enough of us demand an accounting, perhaps one day we will get an accounting and from that, a responsive and responsible government. One thing we know for sure: if we don’t believe peace is possible, we will never have it.




Is seeking peace a naïve thing?

Many of us who protested the Vietnam War–and subsequent wars–think that some initiatives on behalf of peace are a waste of time. During the Vietnam War, some people suggested that if our troops would sit down with the Viet Cong and sing “Kumbuya” together, the war would end. Among other things, this view showed an ignorance of the region’s history and what brought all the players into the conflict.

Could any of the great wars have been avoided if–prior to the days the first shots were fired–people had worked harder for peace? Historical accounts tend to convince us that the answer to that question is “probably not.” If you’ve read historical accounts, you know that World War I was billed as the war to end all wars. Those who believed that were fooled, I guess.

On the other hand, if we believe that peace is unlikely, then perhaps it is. Our beliefs about peace being unlikely probably shape a lot of our words and deeds and keep us from speaking out against the so-called hawks doing the saber rattling whenever potential conflicts exist. If we remain quiet, then the so-called doves and those who haven’t made up their minds yet don’t consider the fact that the “proper response” need not be a military response.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us that maintaining the Department of Defense costs us (as of 2016) $605 billion, including “Overseas Contingency Operations” in areas such as Afghanistan. Those who advocate social programs, reduced taxes in general, and (naïvely or otherwise) a peaceful approach to the world see these expenditures as a waste of money. We’re lured, I think, into the belief that we must spend that money to keep ourselves safe. Personally, I don’t think the Iraq war or operations in Afghanistan made any of us safer, much less more secure. I support our troops, but not those who sent them to such places.

If you read the news, it’s hard not to think that the world isn’t a very nice place. North Korea is threatening to blow us out of the water, ISIS is causing trouble wherever it can, and it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the Russian government and the Russian mob. Almost every week, we hear of a new terrorist attack somewhere. It seems logical, doesn’t it, to buy more guns and spend more money on defense and covert activities.

But is all that logic a self-fulling prophecy that leads only to more unrest and less security? I think so. I don’t think it helps us to be naïve about the world and its dangers. I do think that if we assume war is the only answer, then that’s what we will have. We need to stop listening to the playground-style bullies who keep telling us the only answer is to “kick the shit out of” one group or another. That keeps leading to more or the same. We kick them. They kick us. We kick them. It’s lose-lose for everyone.




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.