I do not know the ways of the people who live in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan. I do not know how to deliver my message in a manner that will be respectful. I do not know the words one offers in Pashto to a parent who has lost their child. For that matter, neither do I know the English words one offers to a parent who has lost their child.
I do not know these words because in full truth, I do not know in any language the answer to the question: “Why do we harm each other?”
For days now I have been struggling to articulate a response to the violence of the March 11, 2012 Kandahar massacre. America’s behavior is unacceptable and I am an American citizen. In theory, I am represented by my government. In practice, my tax dollars certainly funded the weapons used – and I include in that reckoning far more than guns. I am, in this matter, entirely responsible. But it’s more than that.
As Buju Banton sings: “Why so much violence, too much violence. It hurts my soul and I won’t keep silent” (1). I am more than my national citizenship. I am a human being. I am someone’s child. I am someone’s mother. And that membership requires of me a response.
As an American, I humbly stand before the daughters and sons, the mothers and fathers, the grandmothers and grandfathers of Afghanistan, and plead, “Please forgive us.”
As a human, I pray: “May we be surrounded by love.”
As a mother, I vow: “I will teach my children peace.”
In the end, with what else can I respond but a mother’s love? What more can I give but my own children in the service of peace?
I have searched and searched and can come to no other conclusion than that we must respond to violence by teaching peace (2). Teach it not only by instilling in our children the understanding that “we do not hit” and “we do not harm,” but also by modeling peaceful behavior in every level of society, from home, to school, to the world stage. It is one of those paradoxes we must follow if we are to survive: to end violence, we must be peace.
I want to hear no excuses on this. In this matter, there is no wiggle room. If we had chosen the path of peace after 9-11, our world would look very different today. Surely on the great playground that is the world stage, America could have done after 9-11 what I tell my children to do, when they have been hurt but are not in mortal danger: be the bigger person, walk away.
I intend no disrespect to the souls who departed this earth that day in 2001, nor to their loved ones who remain. But I must insist that America was, and still is, strong enough to respond to violence that does not portend mortal danger to the Republic in the manner suggested in the early days after 9-11 by Colman McCarthy, founder of the Center for Teaching Peace. Instead of dropping bombs, we could have said: “We forgive you. Please forgive us” (2).
As you know, we did not follow McCarthy’s advice, and now, here we are. I beg, please, let us try something new. “If violence was effective, we would have had a peaceful planet eons ago” (2).
There is no time to waste. Peace is not a passive stance. It requires our action.
Peace demands that we hold our politicians to the fire. We must work democracy like life depends on it. Write to your representatives. Write to the President. Tell them U.S. troops must leave Afghanistan immediately. Tell them the U.S. must stop selling and buying weapons. Sign petitions. March. Assemble. Gather ideas on how to act from resources such as the Washington Peace Center.
Peace demands that we rise above the churning spin of the American press machine. Read alternative news sources, such as Aljazeera (for others check out this list of news links assembled by Starhawk, a pagan writer and activist). Listen to opinions in your community that differ from your own. Vet it all with the voice within you.
Peace demands that we bear witness. It insists that we see beyond our differences to the commonality that binds us all as human. It wants us to acknowledge that the life of a child in Kandahar is as valuable as the life of a child in America. Read the names of the blessed dead. Read them out loud at your dinner table. Read them with reverence.
Peace demands that we teach her to our children. In every encounter, our children can be taught to give love. In conflict, our children can be taught to bring about peaceful resolution.
Yes, as McCarthy suggests, this teaching includes exposing our youth to the “philosophy of Gandhi, King, Dorothy Day, Howard Zinn, or A.J. Muste” (2). But it also involves simple gestures. Tell the children in your life that you love them. Hug them. Kiss them. Praise them when they act with love. Play for them Bob Marley’s War and No More Trouble. Dance to it together in the kitchen.
Make no mistake, peace is not an easy path. No, not easy. But it’s all we have left to try.
© Jennifer S. and harvestliberty.net, 2012.
(1) via Buju Banton – Circumstances.