Laying it on the line
Imagine if the United States had a plan for domestic and international peace.
What if actions and policies were specifically in place to anticipate and prevent violence before the need for police or armed intervention. Now seems like an opportune time to communicate the aims of the proposed Department of Peace (H.R. 1673), as well as the activities, hopes and objectives of its supporters.
In light of current events, nationally and globally, it would seem that conflict is inevitable - even, perhaps, simply part of being human. Violence, however, is learned behavior. It is not inevitable. It can be unlearned.
If violence can be avoided, reduced or eliminated, without compromising our security or ethics, shouldn't our government, corporate and civil employees invest in achieving these goals? Could government, businesses and other establishments learn nonviolent behavior and ways of thinking? Can we train our young people in dispute resolution as earnestly as we train them for war?
To quote U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), "President Kennedy's Peace Corps taught Americans how to work with and appreciate other cultures . We want our young people trained in peaceable practices that are more challenging than how to drive a car. Peace strategies must be taught to avoid, reduce, resolve and mediate conflict at all levels of society.
"Conflict is as natural as breathing" Kucinich says. "You can't stop it, but you can learn to handle it. A positive approach is safer and cheaper than lethal conflict. Besides, after disputants are killed at home or abroad, adversaries must still negotiate the peace."
For the sake of the children who will inherit the consequences of our actions, we must see to it that our social and political structures promote deep and lasting peace for future generations.
The goal of a Department of Peace would be fourfold: to decrease violence by understanding its root causes; to address those issues at their core; to teach peace tools so that all become experts at conflict resolution; and to make peace principles the fabric of our institutions at all levels of society.
The U.S. government presently spends $400 billion a year on the military, but almost nothing on established doctrines of conflict resolution in international and domestic affairs, both of which could go far to halt incipient violence.
For the record, a Department of Peace would not increase taxes. It would require only 2 percent of the current budget of the Department of Defense budget, or $8 billion a year to address the root causes of violence and to teach peace and conflict mediation skills. This education will ultimately save us tax dollars!
We currently cannot keep pace with violence in our schools, prisons, homes and among other nations. It's time to step back and realize we cannot fi x the problem after it is full blown. More of the same is like throwing gasoline on fire.
Consider the prisons, domestic violence cases, potential internal conflict in countries identified by the State Department, but without a peace academy to train people to assist before crisis hits, we send in the military instead.
Whatever your motivation - moral, spiritual, humanistic or fiscal - peace should be our first and ultimate objective. Preemptive peace - not attack - should be the call of a true patriot.
In the absence of peace, no other goal, prosperity, freedom, common good or advancement, is truly possible for all.
Juli Kring is a member of Gethsemane UCC in Houston, Texas.