A National Peacemaker's Day
- Eleanor Roosevelt
It is right and proper that our nation sets aside days to honor the men and women who have fought in the service of our country. They fully merit our collective thanks and admiration for their bravery and sacrifice.
But our nation fails to honor the peacemakers. Americans can serve their country not only by fighting its wars, but also by struggling to avoid war and promote peace. No president or general orders the peacemakers into action. They expect no glory for their deeds. Yet it is well past time that we set aside a day to honor the peacemakers. As Americans, we rarely equate honor, loyalty, and courage with actions on behalf of peace. Too often, we make the tragic mistake of equating advocacy for peace with disloyalty or subversion, when for the peacemakers it is their patriotic duty.
The late Robert McNamara said, “we were wrong, terribly wrong” about the war in Vietnam. Yet we not do today celebrate those who were right about Vietnam, the millions of ordinary men and women who put themselves on the line by taking to the streets to protest the war. To the contrary, in 2004, John Kerry’s anti-war protests were turned against him as akin to near treason against the United States. Yet, had McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson listened to the peacemakers when it mattered, they might have saved many tens of thousands of American lives and perhaps millions of Asian lives.
Who today remembers the struggles of American Friends Service Committee, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the World Council of Churches in the 1950s to end the horrific testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and oceans? Their efforts ultimately contributed to the Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which rescued humanity from deadly nuclear fallout, with unpredictable effects on the future of the human race.
The litany of peacemakers who were right in their time goes on. However, we honor all our soldiers regardless of whether we believe they fought in just or unjust wars. So too we should honor all those who fought for peace, whether we now believe they were right or wrong. Their dedication still deserves our recognition.
We should respect as well the groups that today are protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were scorned during the early fervor for these wars, but now the majority of Americans are in accord with their views.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” says the gospel of Matthew. It is time to make this blessing a reality with a national peacemaker’s day.
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Scott H Bennett - 11/7/2010
To Allan Lichtman's list of those groups that opposed nuclear testing in the 1950s, I would add the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the War Resisters League (WRL), Peacemakers, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy ( SANE), the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), and others.
vaughn davis bornet - 11/1/2010
I read this ernest piece with a certain bemusement.
Of Course agitation for such causes as avoiding war and getting out of war and making war less bloody is worthwhile. Those who use their time this way should be rewarded in some way.
But using one's time in this way is hardly risky, dangerous, costly in lost of loved ones, taking one from hearth for, say, three years or more, likely to fatally interrupt schooling, or harmful to one's health.
Agitation of peace is usually akin to a hobby, I judge, it's recreational, harmless. Compare with friends who died, being away from loved ones many years, lifelong residue of stress and strain. Different ballpark.
Let's not go overboard, here.
A few gestures toward "peace" cannot be made eqivalent to the four years and three months the government seized from me (and my parents) in World War II.
Good idea, well expressed, worthy in theory; but don't expect applause from veterans, really from any of us. unless the right button is pushed: thus,direct relationship established between peace activity and (a) achieving the good things from the war, and (b) keeping "me" from having made those major sacrifices.
Vaughn Davis Bornet Ashland, Oregon
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