A People’s Campaign for Peace in the United States
Peace is often in the news today, almost as much as its diabolical antithesis – war. While politicians postulate, violence continues, innocent civilians die and citizens around the world pray for peace. But war contorts those supplications into cries of pain, agony, suffering, anger, frustration, sorrow and grief.
So, where are peace, harmony and happiness for which people clamor? Where is “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” that the founders of my country, the United States of America, espoused? Where, in my government, do we have a paradigm of peace?
Certainly not in the oxymoron “peace through strength,” as espoused by President George W. Bush, for that phrase is symptomatic of bullying. Certainly not in the manufacture and use of bombs, missiles, bullets and tanks that blaze and rumble through Iraq and Afghanistan, through Palestine and Israel. Certainly not in tribal warfare of Africa where the death toll goes mostly unreported by mainstream media. Certainly not in ceasefire rhetoric that produces minimal results.
Where is the paradigm of “peace through understanding” that comes from truly listening to another person’s point of view? Where is the joy that comes from “loving thy neighbor as thyself,” whether that neighbor is the person next door, a homeless person across town, or a fellow human being in Israel, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, India or Africa? Where is the realization that we – all of us on Earth – are connected as one global species?
Fortunately, that paradigm of “peace through understanding” exists in the hearts and minds of many people. It is the foundation of the United Nations. It is the basis of non-government organizations (NGOs) that provide money and aid to overcome hunger, poverty, disease and inhumane living conditions. The paradigm may not exist in the majority of my country’s cadre of politicos, but it is growing from the grassroots up among the populace, and it is becoming a political force.
In Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA – where I live – weekly peace vigils have been held at the U.S. Federal Building since before the Attack on Iraq in March 2002. Other vigils in another part of my community protest the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that began in July 2006. And a vigil was held in a city park on August 9 to commemorate the lives lost due to the nuclear holocaust of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 61 years ago.
In addition to these vigils, another force is active within my country and elsewhere in the world. That force is a campaign to create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace within the U.S. federal government.
The Department of Peace movement exists as proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and in the U.S. Senate, introduced by Senator Mark Dayton. The House Bill has 75 co-sponsors. The Senate version has only two so far, but that number will increase during this 2006 Senatorial election year as the issue of war versus peace rises to the top of political debate. Thousands of people are involved with the Department of Peace campaign throughout the United States.
The movement exists in other countries as well. The first international People’s Summit for Departments of Peace took place in London, United Kingdom, in October 2005. Forty people from 12 countries participated in the two-day summit. Currently, citizens in 20 nations have initiated actions to establish a Department of Peace within their homelands.
NGOs that support creation of a U.S. Department of Peace are numerous, distinguished and influential. They include AfterDowningStreet.org, Amnesty International, American Muslim Voices, American Voices Abroad, The Dr. Semi J. and Ruth W. Begun Center for Violence Prevention and Education, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Center for Nonviolent Communications, Code Pink, Communities of Peace Foundation, Democrats.com, Fellowship for Reconciliation (FOR), Global AIDS Alliance, Global Exchange, Global Youth Action Network, Humanity in Unity, Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, The International Healing Trauma-Healing Institute, Musicians and Fine Artists for World Peace, National Women’s Studies Association, National Organization for Women (NOW), Pace e Bene, Pathways to Peace, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action, Peace Is Every Step, Physicians for Social Responsibility, September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, School Mediation Center, Tikkun, Traprock Peace Center, United Religions Initiative (URI), Veterans for Peace, Wholistic Peace Institute, and Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!).
Notables who actively support the Department of Peace campaign include retired U.S. news anchor Walter Cronkite, retired U.S. Ambassador John McDonald, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, actor Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash in Walk the Line), singer Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, and author-speaker Marianne Williamson who initiated The Peace Alliance, which is the campaign’s principle grassroots support organization.
The campaign is alive and strong in my part of Michigan, too. A major Peace Alliance Conference was held here in July. About 300 persons attended. Keynote speakers included Ms. Williamson and U.S. Congressman John Conyers, a significant peace advocate, of Detroit, Michigan.
These political visionaries stated that we need to foster a spiritual attitude of peace within ourselves if we are to change the prevailing paradigm within society and government. “The only two forces more powerful than any bomb are love and hate,” Ms. Williamson said, “and love triumphs hate.”
Ms. Williamson complimented the founders of our nation who stepped far beyond the governance norms of their era by referencing God within the U.S. Declaration of Independence and proclaiming, “… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….” She praised Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for “turning love into a political force” through nonviolent resistance to oppression. And she said that now it is our responsibility, as citizens of the world, to continue to use love to make a difference in the world.
Ms. Williamson quoted Albert Einstein who said, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” The problems of war that we experience today were created by an old mindset of fear, doubt, uncertainty and greed. Yes, those factors still exist. Fear, especially, continues to be mongered by the Bush administration that promoted and launched a unilateral, preemptive Attack on Iraq and now wants to build a wall to isolate our nation from Mexico. That level of thinking dates to the creation of the Great Wall behind which ancient Chinese emperors hid their resources and stifled their civilizations. Mistrust and fear symbolize invalid, head-in-the-sand thinking that is no longer applicable in today’s world of global communications, global trade and potential global nuclear destruction.
Ms. Williamson reminded her audience, more than ever, we must recognize that we live in a new century of enlightened thinking where fear and oppression can and must be replaced with understanding, love and forgiveness. That is the destiny of our species if we are to survive.
Visualizing a peaceful future, Ms. Williamson asked each person at the Department of Peace Conference to imagine a time when children would come home from school in disbelief and ask their parents, “Is it true there used to be something called ‘war’ in which soldiers invaded other lands, and the army that killed the most people won?” She asked people to envision those parents saying, “Yes, that’s the way it used to be, but it isn’t that way any more.”
Ms. Williamson reminded attendees that our most important endeavor, at least in the United States, is to seek legislative support for the Department of Peace from our U.S. Congressional Representative who has the power to vote the bill into law. We were taught how to engage other citizens, the media and municipal governing bodies that could pass resolutions in favor of the Department of Peace. For personal peace and greater understanding among individuals, we learned nonviolent communications skills.
We also learned that Congressman Kucinich originally wrote the Department of Peace legislation prior to the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, not simply as a deterrent to international warfare, but in response to the need for nonviolent resolution of domestic and community violence within the United States.
While the War in Iraq, for example, has cost U.S. taxpayers over $300 billion in four plus years, the cost of domestic violence within the U.S. is $300 billion annually, according to the World Health Organization. Health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. There are 31,000 gangs in the U.S. and the rate of youth homicide in my country (11.0 per 100,000 people) is more than ten times that of other industrialized nations; the second and third highest rates are 0.9 and 0.8 per 100,000 in the United Kingdom and Germany, respectively.
Clearly, U.S. citizens live in a violent society. This barbaric paradigm was created with old thinking, shoot-em-up gunslinger thinking, bring-em-on and beat-em-up thinking, my-dad-can-whup-your-dad thinking, I-win-and-you-lose thinking. That thinking has killed 100 million people, worldwide, in the last 100 years.
The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over while expecting different results. War has only hindered and hampered society. It’s time – past time – that we give peace a chance. Serving as a complement to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Peace would be the primary political instrument to bring the peace paradigm into greater human consciousness, and it would bring the voice of peace to the U.S. President’s highest advisory Cabinet.
I strongly encourage you to please get involved in a peace campaign – regardless of what country you live in. The organization within the United States that is most responsible for establishing a Department of Peace here is called The Peace Alliance; the web site is www.thepeacealliance.org. Other countries have similar organizations and campaigns. If your country doesn’t have a Department of Peace campaign, start one.
While being involved, please also be at peace within your heart. Peace begins within the mind of each and every one of us. Work for peace and be at peace. That is the credo that will lead us – all of us – into the next generation and beyond.
Robert Weir is the District Leader for the Department of Peace campaign in Southwest Michigan, USA. He is also a freelance writer and speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his web site, www.robertmweir.com.
Robert M. Weir
709 Regency Square, Apt 302
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
September 28, 2006
Robert M. Weir
Dr. Leo Semashko: a Global Leader of Peacemaking
through Harmony and Children
True peace can be inevitable, says Dr. Leo Semashko, but only through social harmony and harmonious education of all children of the world.
Dr. Semashko, who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, and holds a doctorate of philosophy from Moscow State University, has been working to confirm that idea for 30 years. In 2002, he published his vision, Tetrasociology: Responses to Challenges, which demonstrates that the population’s four social spheres must partner in order to transition the human family from enmity and war to cooperation and care. While Tetrasociology, Dr. Semashko’s major discovery, would ensure social harmony and prevent war, he also declares the need to make harmonious education of children a social priority.
“Children’s education in families, schools and universities must evolve to an understanding of global harmonious sphere classes and, thus, initiate a new civilization beyond war,” says Dr. Semashko.
Leo’s endeavor was destined from childhood. BorninGrodno, Byelorussia, on 20 June 1941, Leo experienced war at the age of two days. He and his mother, Augusta, were still in the maternity ward when, amidst German rocket fire, Leo’s father, Alexei Lihanov, a Russian army officer, told his wife to evacuate. That was the couple’s final conversation, as Alexei was killed only a few days later. Riding on a freight train, Augusta and her infant miraculously arrived in Bejestk, where they lived with her parents and where Leo experienced his youth and teen years. Still today, Leo expresses disgust at the horrors of war.
Inspired by his two sons and four grandchildren, Leo sought not only to establish theoretical concepts but to develop practical measures that would bring about social harmony. Between 1975 and 1993, he founded and headed six organizations devoted to children and family rights. Through this work, he came to understand that “social harmony and appropriate peacemaking can only be achieved on a scale that includes all humankind, not merely a framework of one country or a small group of countries.”
From that revelation, Dr. Semashko created a web site, “A New Culture of Peace from Social Harmony and Children’s Priority,” (www.peacefromharmony.org) that, since 15 February 2005, has united 190 authors from 33 countries whose essays of peace and wisdom have been translated into 15 languages.
These authors, whom Leo hails as “a nucleus of a new global community of harmonious people,” have created two projects: “Harmonious Era Calendar” and “Great Charter of Harmony.”
Dr. Semashko’s ability to bring together great thinkers and creators from diverse cultural, social and political backgrounds marks him as a global leader of social harmony.
Robert M. Weir
709 Regency Square, Apt 302
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
February 27, 2007