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Establish a Peace Site, promote Peace

Monday, July 1st, 2013
A Peace Site dedication at St. Paul's Monastery, St. Paul, June, 2009

A Peace Site dedication at St. Paul’s Monastery, St. Paul, June, 2009

My friend, Lynn Elling, founder of World Citizen and co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize Festival, now part of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, has a favorite Gandhi saying which he recites often: “If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children”. The entire quote is here.

For Mr. Elling, promotion of Peace Sites has been an important part of his near life-long history as witness for Peace.

He first learned of the concept “Peace Site” in the early 1980s. I met Mr. Elling and learned of Peace Sites only six years ago, and in many assorted contacts since then, I agree that they are a wonderful community building venture wherever a group chooses to dedicate one, with direct and potentially lasting positive impact on children.

Here are a few notes about Peace Sites, and how anyone can create a Peace Site at school, place of worship, organization, etc:

HISTORY: Best as I can determine, the idea of formal Peace Sites originated in New Jersey in 1982. Here is a column from New York Times at the time: Peace Sites NJ 1982001. Mr. Elling, of Minneapolis MN, learned of the idea and set about replicating it in Minnesota in 1988. Characteristic for him, he engaged all out, to the extent that there are now hundreds of Peace Sites which trace their history back to the local idea of this man.

World Citizens list of Peace Sites as known today can be viewed here.

BECOMING A PEACE SITE: In my six years of knowledge of Peace Sites, I have witnessed and/or learned about many Peace Site Dedications in various settings.

A Peace Site dedication program at Great River School, St. Paul MN, November, 2012.

A Peace Site dedication program at Great River School, St. Paul MN, November, 2012.

There is no “formula” for a Peace Site dedication. There are ideas for what a Peace Site celebration might entail, but in my experience the best Peace Site dedications are home grown through a process in which community members elect the kind of dedication they wish to have.

Often times these will include dedication of a Peace Pole; sometimes of a standard model, sometimes they are a unique creation of a local artist or group of artists.

New Eagle Scout Eric Lusardi, at left, brought a New Peace Site and personally designed Peace Pole to life in New Richmond WI in the summer of 2012.  Melvin Giles, center, helps dedicate the Peace Site on the International Day of Peace Sep 21, 2012.

New Eagle Scout Eric Lusardi, at left, brought a New Peace Site and personally designed Peace Pole to life in New Richmond WI in the summer of 2012. Melvin Giles, center, helps dedicate the Peace Site on the International Day of Peace Sep 21, 2012.

But the key aspect of a successful Peace Site is that a local committee create their own idea and program, and involve the greater community in the Dedication ceremony.

REDEDICATION: One of the remediable problems I have seen with Peace Sites is that, once created, they simply exist and are not rededicated on a regular basis. A great deal of effort is expended to do a Dedication, but no attention is paid to rededicating the Peace Site on a regular (as yearly) basis.

What can too easily happen is that the great esprit of the moment can quickly erode, and if there is no conscious effort on an ongoing basis, before too long, people forget that they are a peace site, or the people who originated the idea in the first place move, or in other ways the institutional memory disappears, and with it the whole idea of a peace site.

It is important for existing Peace Sites to make a commitment to rededicate in some fashion each year.

There is no “cookbook” for Peace Sites, but they do kindle a candle of Peace in the hearts and minds of children and adults wherever they appear.

Consider the possibility of a Peace Site where you live.

Past posts specifically about Peace Sites are here and here.

Some lucky bird may take up residence in this ceramic birdhouse which will grace the top of the completed peace pole when the Peace Site at Washburn High School in south Minneapolis is dedicated in the Fall of 2013..

Some lucky bird may take up residence in this ceramic birdhouse which will grace the top of the completed peace pole when the Peace Site at Washburn High School in south Minneapolis is dedicated in the Fall of 2013..

Rededication at Bloomington MN Jefferson High School May 3, 2013.  The school has an annual rededication as a Peace Site, and it is a major annual event.

Rededication at Bloomington MN Jefferson High School May 3, 2013. The school has an annual rededication as a Peace Site, and it is a major annual event.

#624 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #46 – 4000 days at War in Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Someone has calculated that today, September 19, 2012, is the 4000th day of the beginning of the War in Afghanistan: the day the bombing began, October 7, 2001.

Except for isolated demonstrations, including one this afternoon from 5-6 p.m. at the Lake Street bridge in Minneapolis, there will be little attention paid to this anniversary.

One of the few newspaper articles I have kept for posterity is one from October 8, 2001: Afghanistan Oct 7 2001001

This is a short article, simply describing the results of a poll of Americans at the time about going to War. It is worth reading. If you don’t care to open it: succinctly, 94% of Americans approved of the bombing of Afghanistan for whatever reasons they might have had for the action.

For a politician to be against the war in 2001 would have been almost certain political suicide.

I was one of the 6% who, had I been asked, would have disapproved of the bombing in 2001.

My opinion wasn’t based on being anti-war, then, though it was that singular event that launched my subsequent activist life.

As a military veteran myself, in the Army at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, in a unit that was mobilized for possible action, I was not altruistic.

Very simply, on that dark day in 2001, I could see absolutely no long term good coming out of attacking a country, Afghanistan, whose only ‘sin’ was harboring an isolated bunch of terrorists who were soon to become enshrined in our political conversation as “al Qaeda” (which, to my knowledge, is simply an Arabic term, al-qa’ida: “the base”).

October 8, 2001, was a very lonely time to be against War, I can attest.

Only about one of twenty Americans agreed with me, and most thought there was going to be a long war, and were okay with the idea and (I suppose) thought that we’d “win” something or other.

Not long after, of course, our sights shifted to Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with 9-11-01.

Of course, our futile exercise in supposedly attempting to eliminate evil in the world is succeeding only in slowly destroying ourselves.

“The Base” has to be pleased.

I probably won’t change anybodies mind, but take a bit of time today to consider a few numbers related to that number 4000 (my apologies for any math errors):

2977 – the number of deaths on 9-11-01 (including citizens of over 90 countries, but excluding the 19 hijackers, none of whom were Afghan)
2686 – the number of days of War on President George W. Bush’s watch
1314 – the number of days of War on President Barack Obama’s watch

Nov. 9, 2009 – the approximate date where we’d been at war for 2977 days: one day of war per 9-11-01 casualty.

There is no prospect of ever “winning” the war against terrorism, or Afghanistan, yet we persist in our fantasy for all the assorted reasons we might have. There is no still sane politician who will argue that we must end war now, or ever.

The fault is not the politicians (unless we extend the definition of “politician” to include ourselves, each and every one of us.)

There is no truer example of the truth of Gandhi’s words “we must be the change we wish to see in the world”.

Start where you’re at, as an individual, today, now.

A good place to begin to focus is this Friday, September 21, the International Day of Peace. There are numerous links. Here is the one that is at the top of the google search list.

Personally, I’ll be over in New Richmond WI, witnessing 14 year old Eric Lusardi’s becoming an Eagle Scout (the public ceremony is at 4:00 p.m., New Richmond Community Commons). Part of the ceremony will be dedication of a Peace Site.

Eric exemplifies Gandhi, and I think he’s an exemplary example of youth for our future as a people and a planet.

For some personal inspiration for Peace, visit A Million Copies, here.

#562 – Dick Bernard: Jamie Nabozny. Bullied.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

My friend, Lynn Elling, founder of World Citizen, is fond of a particular quotation of Gandhi: “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”

I kept thinking of that phrase, and looking at the young people in the audience, when former student Jamie Nabozny gave a powerful presentation on his youthful experience of being bullied, as a student, years ago in Wisconsin.

(click on all photos to enlarge them)

Jamie Nabozny, April 28, 2012, St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Roseville MN

The Gandhi statement became all the more relevant when one member of the Panel, a State Senator, was unable to attend the Saturday night event because the State Legislature was in session – and lawmaking these days has become a public war of sorts over how to deal with issues, controversial or not. He could not be absent from the legislature because politics these days is not a matter of truly resolving disputes, rather of who “wins” and who “loses”, or who can be pinned with the loss.

It’s not “bullying”, of course, but we do have a societal pattern of waging war as a preferable option to seeking peace….

The Senator was there only by name and empty chair.

His was definitely an appropriately excused absence, but it emphasized for me the essence of our problem as a society. We Big People can be terrible role models for getting along and resolving issues, and if we’re going to learn a new way, it will have to be Little People, the children, who will do the teaching. And their teachers, not only in the classroom, who will have to role model. World Citizen is one of those working with helping teachers teach more constructive behaviors.

There were perhaps 150 of us in attendance at the gathering in Roseville. Joining Jamie was an expert panel: Julie Blaha, president of the Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota teacher’s union; Heather Kilgore, PACER/National Bullying Prevention Center; and Shiloh O’Rourke, Senior, Bloomington Jefferson HS.

Michael Bergman moderates responder panel of Julie Blaha, Heather Kilgore and Shiloh O'Rourke

The difference between bullying now and when Jamie Nabozny went through his times of terror in Middle and High School is that a spotlight is now on the problem and it will not go away.

And todays kids and those associated directly with them are the ones who will diminish the problem, which will probably always exist, so long as our society continues to talk, as it does, in warfare terms about most everything including, for just one example, whether or not there will be a Vikings Stadium bill, and who will be blamed for it if it passes, or doesn’t (probably a main reason the State Senator couldn’t be with us.)

With Jamie, we watched the film, Bullied, which is his story. At one point he mentioned that over 90,000 copies of the film have been distributed. Schools can get a copy of the DVD free from the organization Teaching Tolerance.

We were reminded that in every bullying scenario there is a victim, perpetrator(s), and bystanders. Bystanders do not get a pass, whether adults or children.

We were also reminded that to ‘win’ at bullying is in the long run to ‘lose’: one of the main actors in Jamie’s trials at school has been in prison three separate times for the kind of behavior that he got away with in high school.

As the q&a session was about to end, two educators from Clear Springs Elementary School in Minnetonka rose to surprise Jamie and all of us, and gave Jamie several gifts including the shirt shown in the below photo. The saying is simple, and cleverly stated: “I stand tall. And you?”

Sandy Curry (at left) and Melanie DeWitt present Jamie with a shirt saying "I stand tall. And you?"

Donna and Lynn Elling, April 28, 2012

Part of the audience April 28, 2012

For more information on peace education through World Citizen, click here. For Jamie Nabozny, here; and for PACER/National Bullying Prevention Center, here.