The Fight for Peace

15 04 2010

When I think of peace, it takes me back to thoughts of the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr. who led this fight for equal rights and was committed to do so in a nonviolent and peaceful way.    When I think of the civil rights movement I think of sit-ins and bus boycotts, I even think of all the folks that despite taking the nonviolent approach to their fight by sit-ins and boycotts, many went to jail for it.  So they may have rallied together to fight but did so in a peaceful way.  Peaceful as you didn’t hear of folks shooting or bombing well at least the black folks who were fighting weren’t resorting to violence.  However today when you hear of folks fighting what do you think of?  Shooting and bombing. 

Thinking of those times also makes me think of the all so popular peace sign and symbol and the flower child wearing tie dye and being free of spirit.  I think of folks wearing dashikis and afros and how so many people were really coming together.  Coming together to stop war, stop unfair and unequal treatment and fighting for this thing called peace.  But what is peace? 

According to Webster’s dictionary, peace is a state of tranquility or quiet; it is freedom from civil disturbance;  it is a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom; it is freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts; it is  emotions or harmony in personal relations.  After reading all of those definitions, I realize that peace on Earth or just peace in general seems even harder to grasp today in 2010.  Sure we as African American people may have much more freedom and rights than we used to bacj in the 1960’s, but are we ALL really living in peace?  We all strive for peace at home, peace at work, peace in relationships and peace on the streets.   Yet the rates of domestic violence are higher than they have ever been or at least those that are reported.  Shootings are still killing people of color in our neighborhoods.  Kids are carrying guns to school. Terrorists continue to make threats around the world.  We are currently at war in Iraq and despite the fact that President Obama is indeed keeping the promises he made and working on all those things he said he would when he ran for President; folks are busy trying to find error instead of letting him go through the process.  They are still fighting against change. Whew, just thinking of all of that makes me just want to say “can’t we all just get along!!”

If we think back to those days of the flower child and the civil rights movement, it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this!  However about fifty years ago we thought we were fighting to replace a culture of war and civil unrest with a culture of peace, so what does a culture of peace look like?  Or should I ask, what does peace look like to you?  Well here’s what I would call peace.  Peace to me is a state of mind, a state of being.  Peace is remaining calm in the midst of a stressful situation.  Peace is allowing folks to be just who they are and is found in appreciating difference and celebrating likeness.  Peace is freedom of expression and freedom of thought.  Peace is what happens when a community works together and alleviates division. It is going back to that village that works together, lives together, creates neighborhood together.  Peace is not what happens after the fight, peace can be found right in the middle of the crazy if you can just realize that the fight is happening because you care about the person. After all if you didn’t care, you would not fight.  Then and only then can you find that peace that allows you to agree to disagree and move into harmony in the middle of the fight.  Peace does not hurt, does not hit, does not get enraged and yell, instead peace stops takes a deep breath and finds tranquility.   Peace is that small calgone moment that just takes you away.  Take you away from worry, stress, fear or despair. 

So how do we live in this thing called peace?  We shall explore this over the coming weeks but for now, think about what does having peace and living with peace in your heart mean to you?

Instead of my ending as I usually do with a quote, this week I leave you with an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s acceptance speech when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964…

 I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

 Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize. After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love….

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One response

7 05 2010
JC Ellis

Holding and enjoying a warm, cup of coffee, cocoa or tea helps me get to my centered “Zen” place. I drink decaf, so it’s not the caffeine rush that I seek, but it’s something about the feeling of a warm cup in my hand that helps me relax. I’ve also found that repeating a favorite scripture and knowing that it’s God breathed thousands of years ago but still relevant today, gives me a peace that surpasses all understanding. I often let the “words of the world” grip my tongue, but when I’m reminded to use God’s words, life’s problems do seem more manageable. Not always fixed, but more manageable for sure.

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