Friday, September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace - 2012

Today, September 21, is the International Day of Peace.  It is a day for opponents, whether they be nations or individuals, to put aside their differences and find ways to solve them constructively and without malice.

I'm happy to live in a town (Eugene, Oregon) which promotes peace and non-violence in so many ways.  Here there are many organizations which promote these goals.  In addition to Ceasefire Oregon, there is also Million Mom March, Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC), Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), Women in Black, the Democratic Party of Lane County Peace Caucus, Veterans for Peace, the Eugene Peace Team, and Beyond War.  There are also religious organizations, including the local Mennonite Church, the Unitarian Church, and Church Women United.  These organizations and others march in the annual Million Mom March Mother's Day walk, and in the Eugene Celebration Parade (where we are in the Peace Train).

Prosperity is not possible without peace.

Our town has just broken ground on a new Nobel Peace Park, which is being put in next to the DeFazio bicycle bridge at Alton Baker Park.  The Nobel Peace Park is the first park in the nation dedicated to winners of the Nobel Peace Prize from the United States:
Between $160,000 and $170,000 has been raised by the Nobel Peace Laureate Project to construct the park, according to the nonprofit group’s development director, Roger Durant. Paddock Construction of Eugene is taking the lead in building the park, which should be completed and ready for viewing in around 90 days, Durant said.
Stretching across two acres north of the park’s duck pond and next to the DeFazio Bike Bridge, the park-within-a-park will showcase a “Peace Path” surrounded by freshly planted trees and a serpentine wall featuring plaques of all 24 American winners — 21 individuals and three groups — of the Nobel PeacePrize.
“A lot of donors are anxious,” Durant said. “They donated over the last three, four, five, six years and we have had to go through the process of getting permits. But we finally have attained our goal.”

Part of the organization's efforts is also to name a Nobel Peace Laureate Park Project’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.  This year the award went to Clair Wiles, a school teacher at North Eugene High School who teaches a curriculum of peace.  An Iraq war veteran, Wiles understands that peace cannot be attained through violence, and that violent means have violent effects that continue to radiate long after the last bullet is fired.
“We were just sort of dreaming,” Wiles said. “And we said, ‘What if we had a class that was called the Humanities Academy for Peace, Justice and Human Rights?’ And so our entire curriculum was focused on a chronological study, but it was all focused on nonviolent movements and the effectiveness of nonviolent movements.”
History courses, as Wiles likes to say, “tend to march between wars,” leaving gaping holes at the points on the timeline when guns were left holstered, bombs un-dropped. She and McCarty sought to change that, presenting freshmen students with primary source documents and engaging in deep conversation about nonviolent movements and how to respond to genocide.
As a poster on her classroom wall says, “War doesn’t show who’s right, just who’s left.”
So what can you do to celebrate the International Day of Peace?  Peace has to start with the individual.  Start with yourself.  Make yourself a vessel of harmony.  Then spread that harmony to others.  Support peace and non-violence organizations such as Ceasefire Oregon or those I linked to above.

One way I intend to celebrate is to spend time on the United Way annual campaign that I lead for my company each year.  The United Way works to help the community come together in a wide range of ways through coordination of numerous social welfare organizations, helping people with mental health issues, or helping with prescription medicines for the poor, or helping young and lower-income families with daycare, etc.  Keeping weapons out of the hands of those who would mis-use them is important, but just as important is addressing the issues that lead to deviant behavior:  poverty, mental illness, drug abuse, and hunger.  The United Way and similar organizations are at the forefront of such efforts.

Just two days ago, the United Way of Lane County had an annual Day of Caring where they partnered with volunteers and companies all over the area to help with volunteerism efforts:

"We hope to make the Day of Caring a year of caring, year round and hope lots of people in the community get involved," said 2012 United Way Campaign Chair.
"It benefits everyone in our community. Those who need the help and even those who may not need the help. Because you never, know, one day, we may be in need. We're all better off if we share our prosperity and help eachother out," said Gray.
Several businesses and community groups volunteered their time at non profit agencies including: FOOD for Lane County, Cascades Raptor Center, Relief Nursery, Laurel Hill Center and many more.
Businesses including EWEB, Siuslaw Bank and the City of Eugene were volunteering at Food for Lane County. "I like to get out and volunteer. Especially with FOOD for Lane County. I love what they do out here in the community and it's fun to get together with my colleagues to do something for those in need," said Jen Connors who was volunteering with EWEB.

I'll leave with a meaningful quotation from a hero of peace and nonviolence, Mahatma Ghandi, which I direct toward those pro-gun advocates who wrongly insist that arming everyone is the way to peace:

"Violent means will give violent freedom."

ADDENDUM:  One national organization that promotes this day is Peace One DayHERE is their Facebook page.  HERE is a similar Facebook page for the International Day of Peace.  HERE is yet another Facebook page.