Work for peace

Lorraine Highsmith is a local peace activist and a member of the Reno Anti-War Coalition.

Each year as we enter the Christmas and Chanukah season, we hear the words “Peace on Earth.” We send the message out on cards to friends and family, and we must mean that we hope for and pray for peace on Earth.

With many others from all over the world, I have tried to stop a war and to bring an awareness of the many issues surrounding our current occupation of Iraq to the public. In the process, I have learned too much about the suffering my tax dollars buy that goes on out of my sight and very far away from my experience. I don’t even want to imagine what it must be like in Fallujah right now. I hear workers of the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent are in danger of being shot for bringing supplies and medical help to the people there. They are at risk from U.S.-led forces. Our young women and men are coming home in high numbers in flag-draped coffins or maimed in body and spirit. This awareness causes a lot of sadness, anger and contempt for those who create policies of war and domination and those who support them.

In the Bible, angels appeared to the shepherds saying, “Peace to men of good will.” But what does that mean to us, to me, today? Does it mean I love all my neighbors except for those who support this war? Do I judge everyone who voted to keep the status quo as stupid or evil? There is no chance of bringing about any meaningful peace on Earth without first finding love and peace in my own heart. Can I create a space for acceptance of others, especially when they think differently from me? We must grow in our capacity to care about those with whom we disagree if we hope to offer an alternative to violence.

As we continue our efforts as U.S. and world citizens to change policies, I wish for, but don’t expect, the soldiers and other personnel in Iraq to come home tomorrow. I do expect that the kind of change we all wish to see in the leaders and desperate soldiers in this world must begin inside me. As Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

The Christmas and Chanukah cards don’t mean much if those of us who send them aren’t working on being just a little bit kinder than perhaps we were last year. If humanity is going to evolve out of war, personal peace is our best hope for world peace. Shalom.