What I hear from artists shapes my perspective on war and peace. I listen to them say, “Give peace a chance,” and I want to. I have an inherent desire for peace. However, I am too human to deny that also in me is an ever-present desire for war. Given this, I must filter each voice I hear through a funnel of facts.
When artists say, “Give peace a chance,” what does that mean? What is a chance? It is something that happens randomly without precognition and prescription. Is that merely what peace is: a fleeting thought, or random roll of the dice? Or is it intentional, necessitated by presupposed principles in daily living? I’m finding that for many artists, their concept of peace is not so much peace, but passivity. What they intend is to sing their song, speak their voice and return safely to their studio or even their winter home in Aspen. The peace these individuals speak of grows out of a mentality that is not active by any means.
True peace is not an ideal birthed from passive intentions. To live peace means to preserve it. To live peace means to be bent on it and to be emphatic about it. This kind of peace expresses itself in actions that give back to the world, that seek out the hurt in the world and preserve all that is good. Is that what the majority of America’s pop stars mean when they flash the peace sign? No, they mean, “Let’s not fight … Let me sing my song and return to the Hills so I can stay safe in my surroundings and income.”
America inside itself needs peace. Humans inside themselves need peace. If these artists truly believed in advancing peace, they would be encouraging it in the way they live entirely, not just from their given platform. To them, peace means, “Let me continue to live my way, without your interference … Let me make my own decisions and think for myself and protect myself.” This is not peace; it is, at its core, ethnocentric and borderline humanistic.
On the opposite extreme, when politicians start blowing their war horn, with battle cries of “command and conquer” echoing through the White House, we respectively start to get a very negative idea of war. Who would support a war that was forced on America by its political elite? Who supported Vietnam? True, war is the opposite of peace, which is a negative reality. However, if the mathematics are done correctly, there is a time for both, and war can be instrumental in securing peace, when and if it is threatened. This kind of war would not be based on hungry colonization or political pride. Rather, it is a defense mechanism. It is an opportunity to preserve the quality of life and ideals that are highly respected, such as freedom, love and goodness. If these ideals are threatened, they must be defended. If we are to lose these ideals, then we are indeed lost.
When an artist waves his peace banner, ask yourself what kind of peace he is insinuating. In the same way, when politicians blow their war horn, what kind of war are they backing? Is their idea of “peace” one that allows them to conquer while safely secured in their gated fortresses, or is it the kind that is backed by a Mother Theresa, self-emptying ethic, that is seeking to make peace and love evident in the present? Is it intelligent peace that moves and reaches others? Or is it passivity clothed in the camouflage of peace? Is it the kind of war that is bent on devouring and promoting political perspectives? Or is it a war persistent about preserving the most sacred qualities in life?
The dichotomy is obvious. We have turned peace into a card that is played randomly during a card game and kept safe inside the deck until the next hand. We have let our basis for war turn into a dictator to control that game. Don’t give peace, or even war, a chance, as if throwing dice. Let’s approach life, as Dallas Willard suggests, as “an intelligent act of beauty.” Let us practice deliberate acts of kindness and purposed acts of justice; and preserve what we’ve been given.
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