“How do you find peace?”
That’s a loaded question – everybody has a different definition of what “peace” really is, and how to attain it has even more answers.
But I cringe and roll my eyes at the various demonstrations and protests of people who are demanding “world peace”. They seem to think that the definition of “peace” is simply a “lack of wars”.
But here’s the spoiler: it’s not going to happen. Wars happen because of fundamental differences in ideology. The United States of America and its citizens don’t want war – but they sometimes have to do it.
I recently read In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson*. It’s the true story of the U.S. ambassador to Germany living in Berlin during the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. It’s an increasingly captivating tale, and one that is particularly interesting when you think of it in terms of today’s world.
Ambassador Dodd meets with Hitler right after the Fuhrer takes full dictatorial control over Germany. He sits down in his office and Hitler repeatedly swears up and down that he does not want war. That they are taking every chance and precaution to ensure that Germany does not go through war. That he wants peace, just like everybody else.
But to Hitler, “peace” meant “no Jewish people around”. He had a different definition of it. His version of “peace” also meant “everybody listening to every word I have to say and obeying it without question”.
He wanted to rule Europe, and then the world. He didn’t understand the concept of just “talking it out” in the diplomatic sense.
The Problem with Diplomacy
Reading this story makes me think of today’s world, where politicians promise to work out issues diplomatically and tell the American people that their children are going to come home safely – that we’re not going to go to war anymore.
But it’s a pipe dream. It’s not going to happen. Every 30-40 years, there will be a new war. A country or a people will decide that they want more than they have. They’ll decide that some human beings’ lives aren’t worth the others.
When that happens, the only way to discipline them is to use language that they understand: pain.
Pain is how we learned things as children. We weren’t supposed to touch the stove? We did it anyway. It hurt.
Or, we had parents who weren’t averse to spanking their child. We did something wrong, and we felt pain. We didn’t understand the concept of wrong – we understood the concept of pain.
This isn’t even the rant I set out to write about this – but it does need to be said. There are thousands of different cultures around the world. They all have different viewpoints on sexuality, male and female roles, authority figures, parenting, work, government assistance, technology, transportation, and the list goes on.
It is foolish and irresponsible to think that everybody in the world is going to be on the same wavelength when it comes to international relations and human life. We can’t even get on the same page across our entire country!
There are going to be times when war is necessary. During World War II, once Americans learned what Hitler was doing to the Jewish people (and various other groups), they were appalled. Suddenly, all anybody wanted to do was take a shot at him. The country banded together and knew that the only way to stop all of this horribleness was to go to war together.
Today, we know more than ever about atrocities being committed around the world, yet we want to sit down and have a beer with people. We want to gently tell them that we want them to stop.
But diplomacy only works when there is the threat of further discipline. When parents who never discipline their kids tell them that they are doing something wrong, nothing changes. The child keeps doing the wrong thing, because he knows that words are empty. But if there is a real threat of punishment on the other end of it, then the child knows the parents mean business.
International relations work the same way, whether we like it or not.
But here’s the part I really set out to write.
Peace starts at home. It starts with families and friends. It starts with you.
You demand peace in the world, yet your children don’t listen to you. You want wars to stop, but you continually get into screaming matches with others on your opinions. You want the peoples of the world to respect each other, but you show little respect to your spouse and your family.
The beauty of seeing peace as a personal thing is that it’s something you have much more control over, and it’s infinitely more satisfying. Truth is, many aspects of our life are not affected by war unless we personally lose a loved one in the fight.
Our jobs go on. Dinner is put on the table. We worry about our bills. We still mow the lawn.
But when conflict arises in our personal lives, many of those things can come to a screeching halt. There is a very real reward in pursuing personal peace.
In other words, stop spending so much time worrying about what other people are doing with their lives.
Learn to love others yourself. Learn to put other people ahead of you. Learn to respect other people’s views, even if you don’t agree with them (because chances are, those who say they do the loudest are the ones that don’t). Build a home full of peace and discipline.
Show your fellow Americans that you know how to treat other human beings. We may not walk around beating people and shooting them in the streets all the time, but viewing other people with respect is something we struggle with in this country.
One of my favorite characters on one of my favorite shows is Britta from Community. Originally a rather bland character, she’s turned into the hypocritical voice of the “liberal” community, where they stand on their soapboxes repeatedly until they don’t even know what they’re standing up for anymore. She has a sad personal life and is full of anger, resentment, and judgment toward other people, but as many people repeat throughout the run of the show: “Britta’s the worst.” She’d rather tell everyone else what they’re doing wrong instead of paying attention to her own sad, pathetic, insecure life.
The louder you are shouting your views, the more you need to watch yourself. Pay attention to showing peace, love, and respect in your personal life instead of worrying about how other people are acting.
One of my heroes, Teddy Roosevelt, said it best:
Speak softly and carry a big stick.
Let your actions show your viewpoints. I don’t mean protesting and raising money/awareness, etc. I mean your personal actions. I mean the things that people don’t always notice.
Because how you act and treat people when nobody is watching is more important than the statements you make.