Looking back a few days, there was a great plenty of notice about the Day of Peace, some very positive, some very negative, all very public.
The Thursday Minneapolis Star Tribune had a front page article on the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia…on the International Day of Peace. The entirety of page three of the paper related to President Obama’s address to the United Nations.
Former President George W. Bush was in St. Louis Park for a fundraiser on Peace Day, and a full third of page B3 of the newspaper – essentially the only coverage of the event – was of a protest against the Bush administrations sanction of torture.
In the “is the glass half full or half empty” analogy, I would give Peace a very strong showing this week, even though there is plenty of negative to emphasize.
The Presidents address to the UN was measured and instructive: taking the world as it is, and strongly encouraging, for example, direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel on long-term Peace. As such highly public events work, no doubt both Israeli and Palestinian leaders knew in advance what the President was going to say: this is the nature of diplomacy. Peace cannot be imposed on societies, as we’ve learned over and over again. Societies need to come to their own conclusion. We cannot impose, only facilitate or interfere with, agreement.
As to the tragic Troy Davis decision, I tried to articulate my position in a proposed letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, submitted today. I said:
“Regardless of Charles Lanes opinion on the correctness of Troy Davis’ execution on Sep 21, (ironically the International Day of Peace), state sanctioned punishment by death is a dying proposition…and it will be a well deserved death when it comes.
I am reminded of the distinction between two words: decide and choose. When one decides something, all other options are removed. The root for decide is shared with words like suicide, homicide, fratricide, and on and on. There is no turning back from a terminal decision, like a sentence to death. It feels good for awhile (our prisons are full of murderers); but does it help society to be a murderer itself?
Choice at least has room for redemption or correction.
Back in 1991, shortly before the famed Halloween Blizzard, I read about and attended a commemorative service in a Duluth church cemetery. Three black men with a carnival had been lynched in Duluth in 1920 for the alleged rape of a white woman. There was no corroborating evidence.
The men were buried in unmarked graves and on that late October day in ’91, a group of us gathered at their discovered graves to recognize their untimely and unjust end.
At the time of their lynching, one youngster in the lynching crowd in downtown Duluth apparently justified the action: “they was just niggers”.
We’ve advanced, but the primitive instinct of that youngster is alive and well and in our society.”
We’re a complicated world, and there were/are doubtless endless examples of good and evil on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, as on every other day of the week and every week preceding and to follow.
For the long haul, Gandhi said it best: “we must be the change we wish to see in the world”.
Gandhi, assassinated in 1948, never succeeded in his quest, but his messages are before us, every day. We MUST be the change….
Peace is a destination; the Road to Peace is one we must travel each day.
Think Peace, and work for it.