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Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria!

Thanks to a crude bomb that just exploded in a dumpster in New York, much of the world learned that the United Nations General Assembly is preparing to convene in New York, as it does it does every year at this time. What much of the world does not know is that at the same time the U.N. sponsors an annual International Day of Peace “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

1-multiGiven that I write a blog about world peace, I’m a big fan of this day. This year, I will celebrate it in another country. I’m also a big fan of travel. I believe that war is often (though not always) the result of old grievances and common fears being nurtured and ignited by politicians eager to preserve power and prestige for themselves and wealth for their friends. I recognize that any interaction that results in armed conflict is complicated, and that many people try to do what is best. However, my own reading of history tells me that “bloody few” armed conflicts were ever noble or unavoidable; the only thing they all have in common is that they were bloody.

Those of us not in politics have few ways to steer the human race away from the machinery of war. One of those is travel. As we spend time with others who are currently demonized, or who once were, we learn to question the assumptions about other nations, religions, races, continents, and what ever else you have when you describe “those people” in terms vile enough to make the average citizen believe that they must die. Of course, you can’t just get on a bus or plane and go somewhere. You need to interact.

roadYou need to try to drive up a road that your GPS should never have thought was a road in the first place. You need to try to turn around on a steep, narrow hairpin curve and manage to get your rental car stuck with its nose in the dirt and its ass two feet off the ground while your tires spin. You need to hike down the hill, stand out on a highway, and hope that some decent people will stop and give you a hand.

Odds are they will. If you are lucky, someone like Alberto and Maria will pull over cautiously, looking nervously at their daughter in the back seat. They will see how sweaty and frustrated you are, and ask what is wrong in a language of which you speak only a hundred words quite poorly. You will figure out that they speak no English, but you might manage to convey carro for car and espouso for husband and point up the hill. If you are very lucky Alberto will say “cima?” very clearly, like he cannot believe both the car and husband are up there, and you will recognize his word for “on top of” from your hours with Rosetta Stone and you will nod.

On a good day, Alberto and Maria will take it from there. They will drive their old car up the road that brought you to a standstill, chuckle with sympathy when they see your predicament, and gesture to the two of you to help them lift your car and literally set its rear end down in a better place. While you marvel that it is even possible, it is done. You will try to press some money into their hands, helpless to thank them any other way, and they will not want it, at least not until you insist. Maria will give you a hug and, as she does, you and she will both have tears in your eyes, brought on by the intensity of the exchange you have managed without a single word. They will drive off and you will never see them again.

c_norman_rockwell_do_unto_others_2But later that night, as you read about the ideals of learning to coexist with your fellow humans, you will think of them, and understand how one can travel for world peace.

So, Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria. May others always treat you with the same kindness that you showed to us. And happy Peace Day, as well, to your seven billion brothers and sisters, most of whom have needed help at least once or twice and, in turn, have helped a stranger or two along their way.

(For more vacation-inspired epiphanies see The Moon Rises on my c3 blog, Our Brand is Crisis on my z2 blog, and That’s Why They Play the Game on my d4 blog.)

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in being better, empathy, peace

 

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Not writing books about shallow people leading exciting lives

weird3I am passionate about the cause of the world peace. I believe in our ability as a species to get along without killing each other and it is hard to keep that conviction out my fiction. Yes, I do understand that my stories would be more action packed if I just let my characters continually fire weapons, (or incessantly take each other to bed for that matter), and if I didn’t worry so much about what is in their hearts and minds and souls. But honestly, it is my character’s struggles to be better humans that interests me most. How they triumph over the bad guys is secondary.

So, there you have it. I don’t want to write books about shallow people leading exciting lives. I want to write books about amazing people struggling to lead compassionate lives. I suspect that this limits my potential audience. I accept that. The wall of the spare bedroom that I write in features Kurt Cobain’s famous quote I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not. You wouldn’t think that Kurt Cobain and I had a lot in common, but we do, at least in that I aspire to authentically create that to which I am driven. He, of course, did so.

So as an unabashed peace-nik in the year 2015, I am so happy to have discovered the International Day of Peace.  I came across it a few years ago while doing research for this blog, and have tried to give it mention here each year. Today I will let the organization describe the day in its own words. Please visit their blog, which I quote from below. Please consider a small act of compassion to acknowledge the day.

Then read on to one of my favorite passages from x0 in which my hero Lola wonders whether a telepath is capable of killing another human. Her imagined scenario of war without death was taken from a school paper written by my daughter. The possibility grips me still. Someday there will be at least a short story, and maybe a whole novel, using this idea.

fractal 5A Day Devoted to Strengthening the Ideals of Peace (from the International Day of Peace Website)

International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) is observed around the world each year on 21 September. Established in 1981 by resolution 36/37, the United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Furthering the Day’s mission, the General Assembly voted unanimously in 2001 to adopt resolution 55/282 establishing 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease- fire.

Anyone, anywhere can celebrate Peace Day. It can be as simple as lighting a candle at noon, sitting in silent meditation, or doing a good deed for someone you don’t know. Or it can involve getting your co-workers, organization, community or government engaged in a large event. You can also share thoughts, messages and pictures to commemorate Peace Day on social media. Use this site to find organized events in your area and for inspiration on celebrating Peace Day in your own way.

From the novel x0

Thanksgiving night, after the dishes were done, the television off, and Teddie and Alex in bed, Lola curled up on the couch with her laptop. With both of the older two kids flying home in just a few weeks for Christmas, the Zeitmans had for years passed on the effort and expense of a family reunion at Thanksgiving as well. So, with other family either far away or passed away, it had slowly become less of a holiday for them, with four days off to relax being its chief asset.

She found a series of new links on the x0 website, apparently posted by members. One area caught her eye. Crime statistics. Hmm. She followed a link, to the website of an organization called the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence, and discovered that there now was a group out there devoted, purely and simply, to reducing the amount of times one human being intentionally uses a weapon to kill another. By any means. War, gang warfare, murder, mass murder. Whatever.

She read that this declaration was endorsed by more than a hundred countries, but the good old U.S.A. did not appear to be one of them. Why not?

According to the website, an estimated seven hundred and forty thousand men, women, and children are shot and killed each year worldwide. She had to wonder how many of those humans would not have died if the person pulling the trigger had been able to read the mind of the life which they were about to snuff out. Would telepathy have prevented every single such death? Most of them?

She doubted it. What about those who were under orders to kill? Those whose fellow warriors faced death or whom faced death themselves if they failed to shoot? Solving that mess required more empathic ability on the parts of those actually giving the orders, she thought, and probably more creative options than shooting for those in the midst of armed conflicts as well.

Lola let herself try to imagine a world in which that problem had been creatively addressed. She saw in her mind’s eye imaginary news footage showing hoards of foot soldiers, armed with Tasers instead of guns. Occasionally a bomb would fall from the sky, spewing pepper spray. The fight for territory, for whatever reason it was happening, was harsh and brutal, but it was being done by soldiers on both sides who were taking unusual pains to spare every life. Why? Because in the war Lola was imagining, the soldiers operated in a world where murder was so abhorrent, so disgusting, that its commission, even in war, would lose the hearts and minds of those they were sworn to protect.

Seven hundred and forty thousand people a year. Could humans change enough to alter the very rules of warfare if society demanded it of them? We’d walked away en masse from cannibalism, incest, slavery, and human sacrifice, she thought. We were capable of declaring some actions not worthy. Why then not the action of taking another human life?

Were there circumstances in which a telepath would choose to shoot? Lola could think of two. The first seemed a contradiction in terms because it required a telepath who could sense the feelings of others and simply not care. He feels the other persons fear, anguish, possible remorse, hope for life, and then he shoots anyway. But to feel and not to feel was an oxymoron, or at least she hoped so.

The second possibility made her shudder as well. In this case the armed, yet caring, telepath sensed the potential victim’s thoughts and feelings, but instead of finding compassion, he or she would find those feelings so reprehensible, and so dangerous, that the telepath would make the painful and yet the fully informed choice to pull the trigger. To shoot anyway. Lola wondered what kind of victim it would take for a caring and moral telepath to make that choice.

(For more thoughts on how my characters’ superpowers might affect their lives see my post If you could see the future would you want to?)

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in peace, telepathy, writing

 

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My iPod works as a fortune cookie

SurpemesMy tiny nano iPod works like a Chinese fortune cookie. It’s so small that I only use it with my alarm clock, and every morning it greets me with a random song that has an uncanny way of setting the stage for my day. You know, just like how you are thinking of maybe going to visit some old friend in another town and the little piece of paper in your dessert says “You are about to embark on a wonderful journey”. So you go. Well, from the Supremes singing to me to “Stop! In the Name of Love” on the day I almost had a car wreck to Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” on the day that I got hopelessly lost in a previously unexplored suburb of Houston, I’ve decided that it’s eerie how these little things know so much.

I woke up Sunday September 21 intending to write a heartfelt blog post about how it was the thirty-third International Day of Peace, a twenty-four hour period during which the United Nations invites everyone on earth to honor a cessation of both personal and political hostilities. I really like the idea of such a day, but time got away from me. I wrote part of what I intended but postponed finishing the post until the next day.

September 21 was not chosen randomly. It coincided with the opening of the U.N General assembly that year, and in fact the United Nations convenes every year in New York at about the same time. Monday September 22 was opening day this year, and of course it was the day President Obama picked to announce his offensive against ISIS in Syria. It was a wise choice of a day, in that leaders and representatives from almost every nation on earth were going to have to look him in the eye and explain why they would or would not stand with him in this endeavor.

I hate bullies, and I can understand drawing a line and acknowledging that a group is so horrible that they sit on the wrong side of this divide and must be stopped. Analogies abound. Fear of ISIS by those living in the region speaks volumes. There is a spectrum of bad behavior that eventually crosses into atrocities that no human should stand by and watch. Perhaps we have reached that point. It appears that ISIS is making every effort to convince us that we have.

growing bolder 7I also hate war. You don’t have to study a lot of history to discover that the death and suffering we so often call “a brave sacrifice” is in fact the horrible toll taken by those trying to advance political, religious and/or economic agendas that have little to do with the noble words spoken as men and women go into battle. Our involvement in Persia and Arabia seems to be creating a worse monster with every new involvement, not to mention the immense tolls it takes on the lives of our soldiers and on our own resources. It is reasonable to ask whether we shouldn’t walk away from this mess and let those who live there sort it out.

I never finished my half-written stirring blog post about the virtues of peace. After listening to the president justifying his actions and all the talking heads demanding to know why he hadn’t done this sooner, I just didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. My iPod does not suffer from the same uncertainty, however. Monday September 22 it woke me up to Dionne Warwick singing “What the World Needs Now is Love.” I think it has a good point..

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2014 in music for peace, peace

 

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World Peace Update

Click here to visit theWaging Peace website

Click here to visit the
Waging Peace website

North Korea continues to try to position itself as a serious threat to world peace.  Does it take size and might to seriously disrupt this world?  Or will a minimum amount of destructive power combined with sufficient meanness suffice? Sadly, 911 supplied that answer to us all, and now we collectively hold our breaths while North Korea asks foreign embassies in Pyongyang to consider evacuation.

Meanwhile this past week Egyptian security officials say five people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians just outside Cairo, and a Taliban assassination attempt on the governor of Afghanistan’s southern province failed but caused several American and Afghan casualties.

There is some good news. Connecticut passed a new gun law that specifically bans the sale of ammunition clips that hold 10 bullets or more, and the state now requires background checks for private gun sales. Sadly, that momentum failed to carry over to the U.S. congress where, in spite of a majority support for both limiting the sale of automatic weapons and for strengthening background checks, our elected representatives won’t even let the issue come to vote.

Rich Lowry of the National Review took a bit of a victory lap yesterday saying “The president’s push for new gun laws looks, at this juncture, like a complete fizzle.  … The most concrete effect of his advocacy has been … to stoke increased gun purchases on fear that the government wants to ban guns. He set out to lead a great crusade for gun control and ended up the best friend the gun industry ever had.”

Talk about sad.

tankHowever, this past week the U.N. General Assembly voted 154-3 to approve a treaty that regulates the international arms trade and will establish the first international standards for cross border sales of small arms and ammunition, tanks, attack helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles and missile launchers. Yes, missile launchers. The resolution aims to nudge nations towards barring weapons sales to terrorists, criminals and human rights violators.

Let’s hope the predators of the world don’t respond like so many of our own paranoid gun extremists in the United States have. Wouldn’t you just hate to read that the sales of armored vehicles and attack helicopters have spiked worldwide because we are trying to make the world a more peaceful place?

 

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2013 in peace

 

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