“There will always be war. World peace is an impossibility.”: This cynical quote came directly from the mouth of my handsome and sometimes too-intelligent-for-his-own-good 13 year old son. The eighth grade writing assignment had asked Jake to compose a persuasive essay on a topic of his choosing….he had chosen to write about why war and conflict are an inevitable part of humankind.
REALLY?….with so many topics to choose from…..my child chose this one?
As a mother, I had to ask… how had we come to this? Hadn’t I raised him with lots of examples of peace, love, and understanding in the world? Jake was a toddler in tie-dye, proudy wearing his dancing bears!….and he was spoon fed all kinds of feel good music and feel good movies. Peter, Paul, and Mary sang his bedtime songs and Jake learned early on that if he had a hammer, he should “hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land”…..not use that hammer as a weapon of war!
And hadn’t he seen feel good musicals like the Sound of Music, the Fiddler on the Roof, and Hair enough times to know the songs by heart? …..Oh wait, …..behind the catchy show tunes, those films are actually about the Nazi occupation of Austria, the eviction of the Jews from areas of Russia, and the Vietnam War….. Oh Crap!
But still, “why argue AGAINST the good in humanity?” I demanded of him. Was my son so disenfranchised that he couldn’t see that mankind has the ability to rise above hate and fighting?…..that for every Hitler and every Mussolini in the world, hasn’t there also been a Gandhi and a Martin Luther King?
I guess I am an optimist, and sometimes I consciously CHOOSE to focus on the peacemakers and do-gooders in the world……in spite of so much evidence of the opposite. Watching the news with Jake this morning, I realize that this is hard to do. Of course the kid thinks world peace is unattainable, when we are watching day after day, more images of an unchecked Kim Jong-Un furthering his nuclear agenda.
But in the face of violence and war, I tell my son, we can also see examples of grace and humility and heroism. When we think about the horrific acts of the Nazis of the Third Reich, of course we must acknowledge the atrocities and the worst possible behavior of certain people. But we can also think of the remarkable behavior of people performing acts of bravery and selflessness…..and I don’t mean the Von Trapps climbing over the Alps, singing as they went. I mean the acts of individuals who risked their own lives and the lives of their families to hide and try to save their Jewish neighbors…. In the single city of Berlin alone, there were 20,000 to 30,00 families actively involved in sheltering Jewish families.
And in our local news, we see remarkable acts of selflessness every single day as firefighters enter burning buildings and police officers respond to dangerous calls. And at times, the news will display the surprise bravery of someone who never expected to save a life. Just last month, a recovering drug addict jumped down onto the subway tracks in Philadelphia, risking his own life, and saving another man who had stumbled and fallen in.
But do these stories of the best behavior of mankind mean that world peace IS possible? Jake thinks not. His essay argued that because of competition over the earth’s limited natural resources, differences in religious beliefs worldwide, and the greed and desire for power of a limited few, we are assured that international conflict will not just up and go away any time soon.
So what to do? Although Jake’s argument is probably very accurate, I still want to share hope for a better future with him. So I pulled out my button press today and made these fun buttons with messages of peace…. “Make Art, NOT War!” and “Make Music,NOT War!” and I suggested (or maybe INSISTED) that Jake put one on his bookbag…….(okay, I just pinned it on while he was practicing his drums!)
So while the end to world conflict may not be knocking on our door any time soon, I think we need to do our own part to promote peace, even if all we have are buttons, good music, and our own behavior.
So driving in the car last night, I was sharing some of the peace-loving music of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young with Jake and I was singing along to the hippie lyrics “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey…..love the one you’re with.”