Friday, December 28, 2012

Beyond War Revisited

In the 80's, I was involved in a peace movement called Beyond War.
I was a new mother in my mid-twenties.  The arms race was on high speed
and the threat of nuclear annihilation hung over humanity.
Idealistic and passionate, we sat in the living rooms of friends and families
preaching the gospel of unilateral disarmament.

So influenced was I by the principles of Beyond War,
 that I forbade my children to play with guns of any kind.
 We were a weapon-free house.
No Atari video games in our den either.

So committed was I to the cause that when my son went to
Knott's Berry Farm for a birthday outing, he ended up with a
fringed suede purse which I dubbed a "saddle bag" instead of
the holster and silver toy pistols he longingly gazed at in the souvenir shop.
I have a photo of him staring into the camera looking very tough with his
saddle bag strapped across his little 5 year-old torso.

This was perhaps, the only radical step I have ever taken in my life.

I believed that violence begets violence;
that words can be weapons too;
that how we think about others and the language we use to describe our differences matters;
 that our individual choices do in fact impact the world.

My choice as a young mother to withhold
 toys that fueled the imagination of warfare and violence
was an earnest effort to make a difference.

My critics  said it wouldn't matter.
Withholding weapons would only make my children
want them more.

Not true.  Both my children are well adjusted adults who have no deep- seated longing to wield a gun or to blow up the world.

And today, twenty-eight years later, I still believe I was right.
Perhaps it is time to return to the principles of Beyond War -

We are one.
I will resolve conflict.
I will not use violence
I will maintain a spirit of good will.
I will not pre-occupy myself with an enemy.
I will work with others to build  a world
beyond war.

We face new perils today.  As I languish at times, overwhelmed by technological advances, the de-sensitization brought on by school shootings and gun control debates, and the endless cycle of war and violence, the simple choices of our every day lives seem to make more sense to me.

The cause of peace can be global or it can be carried out on an individual basis - one to one.
Modeling conflict resolution and standing up against bullying and hatred are all things we can do on a daily basis.

As a Pastoral Counselor, I must re-commit to strongly advocating for the necessary support services for those among us who suffer with mental health issues and illnesses.
If the counselors could rise up with a voice as strong as the gun lobbyists perhaps we could make an impact.

As 2013 looms, the massacre of innocents is fresh in our memory and the grief is raw in our hearts - let each of us ask ourselves how we can make a difference in our day to day lives with the people in our immediate communities, workplaces, schools, churches and neighborhoods.

The just cause of peace may be a global one
but it begins at home.
It begins with each of us.