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Is the Pentagon in My Family?

22 April 2010 No Comment

Pillars of Peace: Conflict Transformation, Justice and Good Governance

- Commentary by Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief

In her latest blog post on this site Patricia Smith Melton, our founder and the editor of Sixty Years, Sixty Voices: Israeli and Palestinian Women, observed:

Patricia Smith Melton

“Some of us find security (and warmth) by inclusion, i.e. expanding our sense of who is in our local family. Others of us find security (and warmth) by protecting those we sense to already be in our local family, i.e. setting boundaries.”

On April 15, the day that post appeared in our Blog Digest, I was on Capitol Hill here in Washington, DC, participating with about 25 others from various organizations in Alliance for Peacebuilding Lobby Days. A considerably larger group of Tea Party activists were also on the Hill that day. (For those of you outside the US, the website says the group advocates “fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets.” Until a few days ago its home page featured a petition to repeal the new health care law.)

The juxtaposition of peace and tea was interesting for several reasons. For one thing, I’m used to being on the Mall with a throng of anti-war protesters, while a small band of counter-protesters, who claim the flag and the mantle of patriotism for themselves, vie with us for media attention. This time the flag-wavers were in the majority and I (who love my country as much as anyone) wasn’t protesting anything. I was visiting Congressional offices and sitting in on hearings. I was on the inside track, hoping to modify my government’s policies by engaging with them up close, rather than from the middle of a crowd.

After all, we have a President whose friends call him “Ears.” It’s not just the physical feature; this guy listens. Even before his Inauguration last year, the new administration had distinguished itself by its outreach to organizations that could provide input on a wide range of issues. Two wars are in full, violent swing. We in the peace movement have not been heeded. But some of us, at least, have been heard. Why not me?

I’ve never really been an against-er. I believe in being the peace I seek, in looking for what’s right with the world and lifting it up. That’s why I work for Peace X Peace. I still go to demonstrations, though, because I want to show history and the rest of the world that our bellicose foreign policy does not represent the will of all the people. President Obama subscribes to the Just War Theory. I think it’s all just war, and it’s just plain wrong.

Lisa Schirch

Many, if not most of our lawmakers still think the only way to peace is through military conquest. Nevertheless, my heart and mind are being opened by this new willingness to listen. The least I can do is bring my two ears and my one mouth in closer. Patricia Smith Melton met with military leaders even before the Obama administration. Practitioners of NonViolent Communication who I know and admire are providing training to groups within the Pentagon. Lisa Schirch of 3D Security (that’s Development, Diplomacy, and Defense), Chic Dambach of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and we, as members of the Alliance, are engaging with members of Congress and Congressional committees to make incremental changes toward a radically different future, starting with recommendations and proposed language for the Foreign Assistance Act. If we only succeed in adding the term peacebuilding to policymakers’ lexicons and helping them know what it means (see Alicia Simoni’s blog here), we have a chance to change history.

Some of our friends in the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPAC) offer inspiring models of engagement with their own national power structures. GPAC is a space where rich nations and poor nations interact as equals and learn from each other. We can bring what we learn from them―and from you, the members of Peace X Peace―to Capitol Hill and other corridors of power, if we’re willing to let people who we disagree with into our family. Maybe listening to a little hawk-talk is a small price to pay.

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About the Author

Mary Liepold is the Editor-in-Chief at Peace X Peace. To reach Dr. Liepold, email
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