Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making peace in the face of unspeakable violence

© L Kathryn Grace
Please bear with me. This, my first post of the year, begins with tragedy and ends with faint rays of hope, rays of hope I pray will brighten and grow into a steady, unending glow that permeates every heart and soul on Earth.

What is

Yesterday I learned that a woman I admire and who has been wonderfully supportive of this blog, had lost two family members to violence within a few very short weeks of each other.

These separate, enormous tragedies are horrendous in themselves. While they preceded the Tucson shootings last Saturday, I learned of them after the fact, while still weeping for the families of the dead and injured there, where a young man carried a gun to a supermarket and killed six people, injured fourteen others. One eye witness reported that the man, before being hauled away in cuffs, smiled with apparent satisfaction as he viewed the carnage around him. Sadly, this scene is far too familiar. Here in the United States, pick any impoverished neighborhood, and likely there has been a shooting or stabbing death in the last week. In some cities, such deaths occur almost daily; and for some of our young people, killing another human being is a rite of passage; the tell-tale tattoos they sport, badges of honor.

A father weeps

So prevalent is the violence in this country that one father, Van Jones--whom you may remember as the short-lived Green Jobs Czar of the Obama administration, and before that, one of my Ordinary Heroes--breaks down in this audio recording of a 2005 talk with The Peace Alliance. He is speaking of his then seven-month-old son and his son's chances to reach old age intact, well-educated, and free of incarceration. You've seen the statistics on young, Black male survival rates to adulthood, right? How many of them die through violence, how many of them end up in prison?

Addicted to violence

© L Kathryn Grace
Should we be surprised? Under the guise of patriotism, we as a nation extol the virtues of combat. We celebrate the most horrific acts as entertainment. Heck, when Van Jones was growing up, our president glowingly glorified the fictional Rambo as his personal hero.

That's not all. Our country is constantly in a state of war somewhere in the world, has been almost continuously throughout my lifetime. Many in our country consider unpatriotic those who oppose these wars.

Given the hero worship we give to perpetrators of violence, fictional and real, why shouldn't young men of color, disenfranchised at every turn, not emulate the terrible scenes they grow up watching on television and in the movies? Those who want out of their gang-infested neighborhoods have few avenues of egress. One of the most open to them: War, sponsored by our government.

Exploiting, degrading, defiling and destroying human life

Then there are the underground, unofficial wars. Under siege from the drug cartels, Mexico reels from day to day, counting the bodies and burying the dead. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, The Taliban and Al-Qaeda bomb children in schools because they believe girls should not be taught to read and write and spell their own name, let alone learn about the world. Here in San Francisco, our police department periodically raids one "home" or another where children and women have been held in sexual slavery--in residential neighborhoods. Do you know your neighbor? They pull out not just one or two, but dozens of victims, usually brought into this country illegally, and often as not, quickly deported upon being "freed" to bear their shame and find a way to seek their living in a country that no longer wants them. San Francisco is just one small piece of that ugly puzzle.The list of human-on-human degradation and violence is unending. Or is it?

Dare we hope?

Image courtesy
The Peace Alliance (pdf file)
In the face of deep and unrelenting sorrow, dare we hope?

It may not be much. It may be the start of something big, possibly world changing. Tonight, I'm giving myself a big dose of hope, because tonight, in the wake of the Tucson shootings, and fully conscious of all the individual tragedies people face around the country, The Peace Alliance is hosting a national conference call. The call will be facilitated by John B. Kinyon, a trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication. They call it a national soul searching moment. Here's what Aaron Voldman, director of the Student Peace Alliance, has to say about it in an email I received this morning:

This attack [the Tucson shootings] is a wake-up call for America, challenging us to step into our potential for compassion, for right relationships, and for a far more healthy political discourse. ... Now, more than ever, we must ask the questions that will stir each others' souls, and listen attentively to what emerges. Our role, as peacemakers, is a crucial one.

Dialing in is better than sitting on my puhtoodie

I'll be on this call. I need to join with others round the country to discuss ways to bring peace to our hearts, to our country and to our world. If you would like to lend your voice and your thoughts, join us at 9 pm Eastern, 6 pm Pacific. The presenters strongly recommend that you pre-register for the call, which is free, apart from any telephone charges you may incur. After you register to join the national conference call, you will be sent a phone number and unique access pin. If you can’t register, join the call at 916.235.1003, Code: 590543, again at 9 pm Eastern, 6 pm Pacific.

It's still up to us

Peace bed
© L Kathryn Grace
Neither you nor I can control what another human being chooses to do, but we do have the power to make peace an active force in our lives and in our nation. If you join the call tonight, I'd like to know what you think of it. This is one way we can stand for peace today.
We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


Wanda said...

I hope you will report your experience on the call. I am dumbfounded by the violence that is occurring. I hold hope with you.

Sharon said...

I found the experience of being on a national call for soul searching exciting, just to consider the potential to join in conversation with so many others all focused on finding peace. This particular call was a bit disappointing in its delivery, but the potential was still clear.

Conversations at a national level have tremendous possibilities, but imagine bringing those conversation to a community infested with violence. In my own back yard are numerous neighborhoods held hostage to violent acts every day, where neighbors attack neighbors, police attack communities, people try to withdraw from violence only to face it as they walk to work or go to school, the post office, the store. Imagine the possibilities of The Peace Alliance organizing a neighborhood Soul Searching call or gathering in one of these neighborhoods.

Possibility is born from imagining, visioning, from believing there is more. Change is born from courage. One person at a time.

Today, I will search within to understand the ways that I contribute to the violence in my own community by inaction or by perhaps by my choice of spoken words. And I will focus on peace, kindness and compassion, in hopes that my energy might contribute to positive change in myself, and someone near me.

Deb Shucka said...

It's so nice to find you here again, speaking such important truths. Darkness cannot be defeated in war and violence, it can only be dissolved in light. I'm so honored to find myself traveling the path toward peace with you, and the multitudes of us who believe in love.

How was the call?

Hayden said...

I hope that you found strength and clarity in joining with others last night on the call.

I choose to see some beauty in this latest event. Within seconds of seeing the horrific, grinning photo released by the Tucson police, most people recognized that this man is suffering from mental illness. While some have continued to bait and jab, it seems to me that the comment boards are unusually stilled by this, and respectful. Acknowledgment of this is some small evidence of a civilized society. Too often we see hate-filled heckling, hate met with hate.

Reaching back to the moment itself, I applaud Obama's quickness to point out the heroism that took place in that horrific moment. People moved into harms way to protect each other, a woman grabbed his cartridge to keep him from reloading, and he was tackled and brought down by his fellow citizens.

This is very different from the horror & intimidation of the brown shirts, who spread fear with violence and won because none would stand against them. And this not-so-small thing gives me hope. If we are steadfast but not hate-filled, we can change the climate.

Kathryn Grace said...

Wanda, thank you for holding hope with me. So important. Yes, I've posted a follow-up today.

Sharon, thank you so much for posting your thoughts following the call. I agree with you that such calls and face-to-face meetings are powerful in the violence-ripped communities, while mindful of the deep courage it takes to speak for peace there. Only a few years ago, a long-respected inner-city peacemaker was gunned down here in San Francisco, yet people continue to invest in the work of peace in that neighborhood.

Deb, you are welcome. The numbers of peace workers, peacemakers and peacekeepers continue to grow--may all feel such honor and privilege in addition to the responsibility.

Hayden, you are so right to point out the compassion of those who recognized a man suffering from deep mental illness. As one poster on the Peace Alliance discussion board said, "Wouldn't it be good if we could come to understand that the death penalty--which is portrayed as the ultimate deterrent from crime--is unrelated to mental illness?"

Such compassion does indeed give me hope.

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