When we think of peace, it’s easy to imagine a bunch of hippies sitting outside of a VW bus, eating sustainable kale and protesting anything from mountaintop removal to afterschool programming cuts in Nicaragua – while decked out in peace signs, bellbottoms and unwashed, unruly hair.
But there’s a reason why we revert to this stereotypically 1960s imagery at the very mention of peace.
The idea of peace occupies a sector of our public lives that’s politically personal. Peace activism often leaves its “do-gooder” messengers stigmatized as outspoken and polarizing; they single out the corruption in our society, frequently brought about by our very own hands.
No one likes being the bad guy. So why not focus on those at the extreme edges of society?
Yet, while what the media shows us are these radical public demonstrations all dolled up with theatrics for added shock value, there are others embarking on more genuine, everyday, less marketing-heavy missions for peace.
Once you’re willing to weed through the stereotypical Miss America contestants, who shine their pearly whites and mutter thoughtless devotions to world peace, you’ll see that there are actual advocates doing the heavy lifting, in the trenches, often out of sight.
We’re lucky that, here at Cabrini, there’s a honed focus on celebrating these individuals.
When Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J., J.D., spoke on campus Tuesday night, he went back to this idea of peace – but opened it up in a larger context, referencing Pope John Paul II’s vision for the “new” peace: development.
As part of this spring’s lecture series on peacebuilding, Rev. Kammer exemplifies exactly what must be done: peace must be built – and to build it, we must develop the parts of the world severely lacking it. Once the poor of these areas are paid crucial attention and their lives improved, peace will follow.
Even here in the U.S., as Kammer has seen in his home city of New Orleans post-Katrina, we often ignore the poor – so it’s no surprise that, as a result of this, the abstract idea of peace, especially between Americans rich and poor, is hard to come by.
This idea of peace is not new – it’s commonly held that, for peace to actually happen, we must focus on the poor and oppressed.
But both Rev. Kammer’s approach, as well as the different approaches to peace that will be presented from Muslim, Jewish, Quaker, and other perspectives this spring, will show a different story from the one of paisley prints and public demonstrations that we’ve believed peace to be.
Peace must be built, cultivated, developed. Peace mustn’t be desired so much as strived for. And unless we, as Cabrini students heading into the working world in just a couple of years, strive for peace – unless we identify exactly what it is, what it should be – then what good are these lectures?
It’s on us to take more from our education than a degree and the advantage of future alumni events. The question is, are we willing to do the necessary work, to accomplish more than Miss America agreeability?
What’s more important: polite PR, or a chance at change?