I’ve always loved the hymn “Let There Be Peace on Earth (and let it begin with me).” The actual labor required to practice nonviolence is constant, exacting and intensive. I often fail. As peace activist Michael Nagler said, “Non-violence is grounded in the worth and dignity of every human being and really arises from the struggle within a person to overcome potentially destructive drives like anger and fear.” As national leaders advocate war, it is up to each of us to balance the insanity by practicing peace. But, as Francis of Assisi, the Catholic saint who tried to broker peace between Christians and Muslims centuries ago, warned, “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” With that in mind, I’ve assembled a combination of actions for social justice, education and charity that I hope will inspire light through the darkening days of winter. This two-part column is designed so you can wage peace one day at a time.
1. “Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and women and love God above all else. Instead of hating all the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and disorders in your own soul which are the causes of war,” said Catholic monk Thomas Merton. Spend five minutes listing all the beliefs you hold that create trouble within you and with others.
2. Read the Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action calendar at www.sacpeace.org or call 448-7157 and commit to attending an upcoming event.
3. Examine your xenophobia. Use guru Byron Katie’s four-question process at www.thework.org.
4. Educate yourself about the Middle East. Read one article in World Press Review or listen to National Public Radio.
5. Former speechwriter Hendrick Hertzberg said the most distinctive characteristic of his old boss, Jimmy Carter, was that “he was the only president in my lifetime who wasn’t criminally insane. Look up the definition of criminal insanity in the dictionary. It means the inability to distinguish right from wrong.” In what area of your life do you succumb to criminal insanity?
6. “Justice and fraternal love are the two indispensable pillars of true peace among people,” said Chief Amadou Gasseto, a representative of traditional African religions at a 2002 meeting of the world’s organized religions. Denounce the crimes of Al Qaeda but do the inner work needed to pray for the hearts and minds of their supporters.
7. Donate to relieve the suffering of the Afghan people. Visit www.afsc.org or call the American Friends Service Committee at (415) 565-0201, extension 12, and ask for Stephen McNeil.
8. E-mail Senators Barbara Boxer (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dianne Feinstein (email@example.com) to remind them that even military leaders are skeptical about a war against Iraq. When former Secretary of the Navy James Webb gave a speech at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey recently, the packed audience of students and faculty welcomed Webb’s analysis that war against Iraq is a detour from the real threat of the Al Qaeda network.
9. Pray for peace—unceasingly.
10. “Let it not be said that the people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit,” begins the statement of conscience posted by Not In Our Name. Read or sign the statement at www.nion.us.
11. Clip this column and send it to a friend or post it on a public bulletin board.