Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Heads or Tails Tuesday: Peace

This week's prompt from Skittles' Heads or Tails Tuesday is Peace or Piece. I have chosen peace, though I am approaching it with a piece of poetry and two pieces of music.

So many ways to approach this subject. I don't understand war. I see no excuse for it. I don't understand violence. I don't think that meeting violence with violence solves anything. If people stopped insisting on being "right," and wanting all the power, we might have fewer deaths by violence in this world, fewer murders, fewer hate crimes, fewer Iraqs, fewer Darfurs, fewer terrorists and genocides. The idea that bombs work better than conversation is stunning to me. Bombs just kill people and increase fear and animosity. And they don't usually kill the right people (if there is such a thing as the right person to kill, which I don't actually think there is). Bombs and guns tend to kill children and women buying groceries; they tend to kill the innocent with at least as much frequency as the so-called "enemy."

One of my favorite poems ever is a poem by Wilfred Owens. I first read it during the time of the Vietnam War. It spoke to me then and it speaks to me now. It was written during World War I and it's author died young in that war. I may have posted it here before, but it is worth repeating. The last four lines of this poem speak a truth of such power... Even at it's noblest, war is obscene and ugly.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori

*Translation: It is sweet and good to die for one's country.

Then there is music. I've always thought of Blowing in the Wind as a peace song, though it only partly about war. Of all the versions available, I liked this one because it is so straight-forward and pure. I have always loved Peter Paul and Mary. About 25 years ago, before I started hiding from the world full time, I sang in the annual Christmas concert that Peter Paul and Mary put on at Carnegie Hall with the New York Choral Society every year. Alas, I was running a raging fever during the performance and missed the party afterwards, but it was still an awesome experience to sing in that place and with this trio. Ultimately, I think peace is about more than non-violence. It's about the things this song talks about. Real peace will some when we truly care about one another with compassion in our hearts and when we reach out to comfort the pain of every other being on the planet.

and then there's
Let There Be Peace On Earth
performed by the Tyler College Choir... don't know much about them, but of all the versions available on You-Tube, this was the one that seemed most willing to let the song speak for itself.

I should probably leave it there, but I have to add a few last words. In one of the wisdom books I read a while back, it was advised that there is more power in being FOR something than AGAINST something else. I have a hard time remembering this sometimes. But at least in this moment, I wish to let my love of peace outweigh my distaste for war. I want to be for peace and love and kindness in the world with all my heart and soul. I want to put my faith into what is good and kind in the human spirit, because ultimately, I know that is what is strongest.


Linda Murphy said...

My colleague Shannon and I have taught both "Blowin in the Wind" and also "Let There Be Peace On Earth" to our students each year. We invited a few teachers to talk about "Blowin in the Wind" and how that song affected them. For "Peace", the entire school learned the song and the sign language for our holiday singalong.

It is one of my favorite school memories. I am happy that they are enjoyed by you too!

Anonymous said...


There are a million excuses, seemingly, to kill. People mouth peace yet continue to hate.

Beautiful post.

Inspiration Alley said...

Very thought provoking. I don't understand war or violence either. I first read Wilfred Owen's poem at school and I find myself reading it again and again. It never fails to move me.

Hootin Anni said...

I lost a sweetheart to the Viet Nam war. There's no peace for me in that aspect. But the poem is very poignant! And I know he knew not what hit him, so that gives me peace too.

Oh and Blowing in the Wind...it's so perfect for this week's prompt.

My 'peace' of mind is two parts this week, hop on by and say howdy if you can find time!

Juliana RW said...

GREAT post for peace...

Will you visit mine Thanks

Barb said...

Your words here have moved me. I have tears in my eyes from listening to the last video. Very well done.

Susan Demeter said...

"there is more power in being FOR something than AGAINST something else."

What a powerful statement! Thanks so much for sharing it, and these great videos :)


ShannonW said...

A very thought provoking post. Thank you for sharing.

Dianne said...

Beautiful Raven.


Forgetfulone said...

I don't understand violence for the sake of violence, but I think I "get" war. Not that I agree with it, but I "get" it. I love the saying that it's better to be for something than against something. This was a great post.

Karen said...

Awesome post.

peppylady (Dora) said...

I was all most going to write a list of things that would help us have peace but I posted the peace song and prayer.

I pray and ask often to bring common respect for others and I believe once we had that would be a big step toward peace.

Chelsea + Shiloh said...

Your views of war and violence mirror my own..my favourite poet is Wilfred Owen, Anthemn For Doomed Youth being his work that I like best.

For my daughter, we need to ensure that war is seen as a needless barbaric practice from an era gone by..simialar to how we veiw slavery...I want my grandchild to ask me one day.... 'What was war?'

Loved your post, very thought provoking and I like that...ta Raven

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Oh, peace is so important and killing and hatred so . . . terrible.

I too have a distaste for war and a love of peace.

Mike said...

It would be such a nice place here on earth if there was peace instead of hatred and war. We can only hope that more people think this way.

Unknown said...

We sang this in school as tots! And a friend of mine in radio interviewed Peter Yarrow! Isn't that cool? Perhaps not as cool as The Raven, but cool nonetheless!