Friday Philosophy: Waging Peace

The WeaveMothers, one and several, saw the thread snap.  It whipsawed through the firmament as the tapestry of reality sagged and fragmented.  Like so many other wherewhens, the place of weakness involved the worldtime of the brighter spot.  As much as they could experience Fear, they feared another stillbirth should the loose cable strike the brightness.

And, one and several, they wondered if it didn’t seem dimmer.

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

The Engineer seized the braking lever suddenly and pulled with all hir might.  The giant wheels locked and a plaintive squeal proclaimed the rending of the fabric.

The Storyteller ceased singing the song.  The Listener’s head turned to watch the Passenger fall from the seat and awaken suddenly.  On the Passenger’s head there was what could have been blood…near where there could have been other scars.  Some of the Passenger’s face came away in its forelimb.

Turning to look outside they all noticed a thread slicing through the Greataway which grazed the front end of the Locomotive and knocking it from its former Happentrack.

Reality vibrated with pain and sadness.

The Storyteller spoke the words, “There is no joy in Mudville.”  The Listener and the Passenger intoned, “Mighty Casey.”

Quiet ensued.  It was the quiet one hears after an echo passes.

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

Peace is elusive.  It always has been and many people over my life have told me that it always will be.  In fact, I’ve had people assert to me many times through the years that War is our natural state.

I’ve always rejected that notion (but that does not mean that if you believe it, that I reject you).  I just can’t hold that thought in my head and continue to consume any of the nutrients necessary to sustain life.  What would be the point?

Early in my life, I thought it might be sufficient for me personally to practice nonviolence…to engage in Peace.  I believed it would be enough to surround myself with whatever peace I could find.  Given our family life, that meant walling myself off in my room as much as possible.  But how much peace does that spread?

I’ve mentioned Mr. Stafford before.  When I discovered he had been a Conscientious Objector during World War II, he became my hero.  That more than anything is probably what started me reading his poems whenever I could find one.  They didn’t capture my imagination as much as cummings or Sandburg or William Carlos Williams or Dylan Thomas…or later the Beat poets…and even later the women, who had so carefully been elided in those early years.  But they were the work of a man of Peace…and I was desperate.

I was born in April of 1948.  Here is some of what transpired in my first dozen years:

Costa Rican Civil War, March – April, 1948

1948 Arab-Israeli War, May, 1948 – June, 1949

Internal conflict in Myanmar 1948 – present

Malayan Emergency, 1948 – 1960

Korean War, 1950 – 1953

PLA Invasion of Tibet, 1950 – 1951

Tunisian War of Independence, 1952 – 1956

Mau Mau Uprising, 1952 – 1960

Uprising of 1953 in East Germany, June – July, 1953

Algerian War of Independence, 1954 – 1962

First Sudanese Civil War, 1955 – 1972

Hungarian Uprising, October – November, 1956

Sinai Campaign, October, 1956 – March, 1957

Cuban Revolution, 1956 – 1959

Ifni War (Western Sahara), October, 1957 – June, 1958

Lebanon Crisis of 1958, July – October, 1958

1959 Tibetan Rebellion, 1959

Vietnam War, 1959 – 1975

I turned 12 in 1960.  I’ve got 150 more to go in the following 48 years of my life, but the horror of the above list is already too much for me.  And that 150 doesn’t count the Cold War, which I count as the biggest armed conflict of all time.

I count 26 as ongoing…major War in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq and Somalia, and so-called “armed conflicts” in Myanmar, Colombia, Peru, the Phillipines, Laos, Kurdistan/Turkey, Uganda, Kashmir, Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, India, Kivu/Congo-Kinshasa, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Thailand, Chad, Mexico, Niger/Mali.  And that isn’t counting the West Bank or that there are two separate conflicts in India.

But this is supposed to be about peace.

I’m struggling with that since I feel like I am being barraged with conflict.  The asynchronicty of blog participation assures that.  If ever things begin to calm down, someone is going to show up who missed the fact that they would have done so and reignite the fire intended to burn this place down.  Burn, baby, burn.  That is not peace.  So how do I write about peace?

Mr. Stafford refused to serve in the military during WWII.  He spent most of those years in a CO work camp one place or another.  One of those was in Arkansas.  I found it an interesting diversion when I lived there to visit some of the places where work was done, like Petit Jean State Park, and imagine that he personally had worked there.   The biography/remembrance by his son is not specific enough for me to know for sure.

William’s brother was a soldier.  I’m sure that caused family disruption of one sort or another.  After all, they were of the same faith (Church of the Brethren).  Members of the Peace Churches had a choice of whether or not to fight.  Of course the option to not fighting was being part of a work gang…and for those not of the right religion, it was just a chain short of being on a chain gang.

They pretty much closed that loophole when it came to be my time to serve.  What 18 year old can clearly, passionately and concisely express his feelings against war well enough to gain CO status…unless one can prove the Peace Church connection.  The Lutheran Church was not a Peace Church.  So I ran rather than serve…and tried to serve in other ways…until I was caught and given the choice between learning to kill or five years in prison.  I chose the former but clung to the knowledge that if I would be forced to actually apply that knowledge, I could run again…probably be caught again…and still do the prison thing.

I spent my years in the Army trying to spread as much peace as I could.  It is not easy to do that in a military atmosphere.  But resistance is not futile.  Resistance sometimes succeeds.  And we sometimes have to accept the few small victories we can achieve and try to build on those.

And sometimes we have to work on the thing without which there can be no Peace, which is Justice.  At least that’s what I believe:  No justice means no peace…at least for those people who are not being justly treated, those people who are being denied justice.  I’d go so far as to say, that’s what I have learned, that’s what I know, from 60 years of living.  But I’m pretty sure someone may challenge me on that.  

How does one wage peace?  It’s a hard concept.  Working with those peace churches is one way.  Do what you can to feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless and empower the powerless.  There are ways of doing that, many organizations which will accept help in doing so.  But the point of that, of course, is to try to prevent the next war.

Some believe that is all we can do:  try to prevent the next war.

As individuals, there is little that we can do to stop War that is ongoing.  I believe War can never be ended by fighting.  All fighting does is move the location of the conflict, perhaps sublimate it for a few months, a few years, until it erupts again.

What can a person do?  Walk out on the battlefield and try to take the guns away from the soldiers?  From both sides?  Maybe if there were enough of us.  I’m game to give it a try if there are people with me.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Buehler?

What can the individual do?  I’ve relied on trying to teach the children, or at least teach the young people who will become parents, and specifically teach those who are going to teach the children.  The problem is that what I may have imparted will at best be hearsay and at worst be distorted by a culture which celebrates conflict, which is motivated by greed, and which has no time…or energy…to challenge injustice.

Waging peace is not easy.  But the cost of not waging it, even if only in our personal lives, is too dear.  

Loose Thread



without Justice

is just another name

for War


is only defeated

when its offspring

are not born

The spread of Justice

is the nutrient

for Peace

and the abortifacient

for War

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–July 25, 2008

Δ  Δ  Δ  Δ  Δ Δ

Somewhere in one of the below places, as Sun was once again passing over, Canyon noticed a sudden fissure open and then close in the sky, leaving perhaps no change except less sky…and maybe less hope.

_ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _ # ^ &  _

The WeaveMothers stared at the puncture and wondered if the autonomous beings would work to close it or to make it larger.  As much as they knew sadness, it hung over them.

That is the thing about autonomy.  The creatures would decide what song to sing.


Skip to comment form

    • Robyn on July 26, 2008 at 00:06

    • Viet71 on July 26, 2008 at 00:20

    Never understand your writings.  That’s my problem.

    But know this.  The problem for the progressive left is to define its goal.

    If the goal is to determine how people are elected to the U.S. senate and house, go to Dkos or elsewhere.

    If the goal is to change the system, that’s revolution.

    Fucking revolution.

    Apologize for the rant on your blogspace.

  1. I’ve worked with a man who was a CO during the Vietnam War. He was raised Catholic in Iowa. He doesn’t talk about it much, but one day I got a glimpse from him about what it was like to go in front of the review panel – which in his small town area was made up of family friends – and make his case. I’m still not quite sure how he managed to get approval.

    Anyway, he was a math major (knew you’d like that one Robyn) but did his alternative service in a treatment program for chemically addicted kids. As a result, he has now spent his entire career working with troubled kids.

    A while ago I was reading a professional newsletter we get and saw a story about someone else who had spent his entire career working with youth as a result of alternative service for CO during Vietnam. I told Dave, my co-worker, that I thought there might be a story there…how many men had their life paths changed as a result of that???? They continue to wage peace.

  2. Hope you don’t mind some more music.

  3. … one of the most boring essays ever written in the history of the blogosphere, and I’m glad it’s done.

    Your poem says it all.

    I like it that Viet71 gravitates towards your essays, even if only to tell you they make no sense to him.

    Couldn’t tell you why.

    Happy weekend, Robyn.

  4. here’s a John Gorka clip.  I went to see and hear him a month ago.  He was involved in making some music for a documentary on Stafford (which i’m eager to see).

  5. … the essay (was too weary from writing to read more than the poem when I first commented).

    It’s a masterpiece.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect.  It is not perfect.

    It is a masterpiece.

    Literal definition of that word.

    That and a nickle …

    • kj on July 26, 2008 at 05:15

    eyes closed.   need to wait for morning coffee before reading this or kitty’s.  hope that’s okay, but these are essays to savor, already know that.  🙂

    • kj on July 26, 2008 at 15:55

    this is beautiful tapestry.  “Mighty Casey,” “burn baby burn,” all the threads, Robyn, woven perfectly. (and like Kitty said, of the moment, which turns into timeless all by itself.)   so, i’m floored and happy and want to tell you i think this form and pattern is perfect for you. a vessel. all that good stuff that is half the work of writing.  

    and this, of course, at the end, knocked me out:

    That is the thing about autonomy.  The creatures would decide what song to sing.

    thank you.

    • scribe on July 26, 2008 at 16:04

    all I can do

    is seek peace within

    and hope that

    somehow it spreads

    as I stumble along

    doing my best

    it’s never enough

    never enough

    but it’s all I know

    to do

    • Robyn on July 26, 2008 at 18:21

    I’ve got to find some quotes for future phenomena, put together a parting Sunday music retrospective…and maybe more for when I am gone, if I can find the time.  Don’t know if there will be a Cafe Discovery for Sunday afternoon…I often don’t know until I see what’s happening on Sunday morning.

    Gotta pack and stuff.

    All my bags are packed

    I’m ready to go

    I’m standing here

    outside your door

    Be back later.  Maybe we could talk about Peace.

    • kj on July 27, 2008 at 22:22

    wow, Ria, your judgment on that score has proven itself over and over again to be deeply biased…

    maybe the Universe just had a hearty laugh over your “hiding” my comments to Shar.

    but, carry on.  i understand your taking insult at asking someone to put down the bowl they’re smoking… i can see where, to you, that would be a personal attack.

    hide this commment, too.  i love seeing the double standard at work.  i love watching you decide who is socially correct and who is not.

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