When we protested the Vietnam war, our goals were simple, our vision united: stop the war, bring our boys home. Stop the war, bring our boys home. And in that time a simple symbol was all we needed.
Today, though, our goals are muted, splintered, filtered through uncertainty, fear, frustration, and too many long standing and deep seated hatreds.
In the last few weeks, I watched a friend of mine as he agonized over the injuries and ultimate death of a close friend of his. My friend’s friend was killed because someone somewhere thought that his death was necessary, to make a point, to send a message. In their mind, they weighed my friend’s friend’s life and their cause and deemed their cause of more value. I cannot agree.
Over 150 people have died from gas used by Russian soldiers to free hostages from Chechen separatists. Some would call the Chechan’s terrorists, because they targeted innocent people. Other’s would call them freedom fighters because they moved their fight from their own homeland into the land of the oppressor. Regardless, the people are still dead.
Yesterday, another suicide bomb went off in Israel, the second in the same number of weeks. Issues of Israeli domination and suppression of the Palestine people, and Palestinian use of suicide bombers, all get a bit lost among the death of innocents.
And overlaying all of this is a very real possibility that the United States will invade Iraq.
All people are created equal. We all have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
All people are created different. There is value in that difference and we need to preserve it.
All people are connected. We are connected by geography and responsibility, and, if we would let it, by love
Simple and elegant, yet David and I both know that there really is no simple manifesto, or symbol, for peace today. We live in interesting times.
We can say, We all have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but too many people see happiness only at the death, or destruction, or displacement of others. How then to reconcile conflicting viewpoints of ‘happiness’?
Do we say that the assumption of “equal right” means that those who would advocate the loss of freedoms for others must suffer the penalty of the loss of those freedoms for themselves? Who then judges the actions of all? Who can we consider impartial enough to give this power to, the ability to say to one people, “You are suppressing others, and you must now lose your freedoms”?
Or do we say that people have the right to practice beliefs as they see fit as long as their beliefs cause no harm to others? This would certainly apply to the Islamic extremists, many of whom advocate the death of non-believers such as myself. But it could also apply to those religions that frown on birth control, who fight abortion, and who actively promote the birth of numerous children in a world that is badly overpopulated. After all, death from starvation is just as much an act of wanton cruelty as death from a bomb.
Years ago I would have said, “Give peace a chance. Love one another as brothers and sisters.” Today, I don’t care if my brothers and sisters love me or not, as long as they just let me live.
The era of simple symbols and slogans is gone. The days when we could look simply at an issue, even one as seemingly black and white as whether to invade Iraq or not, are over.
So, here is my proposed replacement for the peace symbol: