If one reads the news, it seems the world is only filled with violence and conflict. But though it rarely makes the front page, peace is breaking through in large and small ways. Here are the rumors of peace for this week:
It is such a bitter irony the way they found your body – naked, broken without a head.
They identified you by the fingerprints they took when the sent you back in ’89. But you tried again, chasing a dream only to cross the border to your death.
And I am never going to hear you laugh again,
never going to see your face again,
never going to hear you laugh again.
Walter, I remember when you’d sit outside the center to joke and smoke with your friends, watch the pretty Latinas go by, laughing at their smiles. Funny how we’d thought life would never end.
I put the flowers on the table by the photograph, black and white, just like the newspaper.
Outside it was gray and cold like my soul. I pulled my coat tighter and walked home in the snow.
August 26, 1992
Originally posted here October 2012
is this what education has come to be?
revenge is the way when one is angry?
it’s not surprising
in this day of FPS, drones,
and the MIC
that you think pulling the trigger will set your problems free
count the bodies
watch the score
now it’s history
why love your enemy
when you can subscribe to this violent
The following is a true story. It is an essay I wrote when I was 16. While it is tempting to edit it, I offer it here in all of its innocent teenaged glory. It illustrates my early pacifist formation and my struggles with how best to live that out in a public school setting. I hope it will serve as encouragement to any young person willing to take a tough stand for peace today.
Today I am skipping an assembly.
I don’t like doing anything against the rules of the school, but Jesus’ rules come first. In the assembly, John Marsh, Secretary of the Army, will give the Charter to the JROTC they are forming here at Meridian High. I hope everything goes well, but I’m not going to it. I can’t go to an assembly whose idea is totally military. The JROTC keeps prime material for the army. Then when those kids grow up they’ll probably join the Service.
Jesus loves everybody and He died for everybody, including the Communists and everyone else the American government terms “enemies.” Jesus said that we should love our enemies.
On most of our money we have a motto. It is “In God We Trust.” If we trust in God, why do we have Armed Forces? If we trusted in God and had faith in Him, we wouldn’t need Armed Forces. God would fight our battles for us. And by showing love instead of hate and contempt, we would know even if the countries or people didn’t change, that what we were doing was right and that the Lord was with us. America doesn’t trust in God. It trusts in guns.
Jesus also said we should pray for our enemies. How can we pray for our enemies in the morning and then go out and train to kill that same someone we prayed for? Christianity and the Armed Forces don’t mix. If we truly follow Jesus whose whole life was centered around peace and love, then we cannot participate in something that is totally opposite of what Jesus stood for. We as Christians should know that following Jesus as best we can does not mean that we should disobey the things he taught. If we are followers of Him then we should put everything aside.
Jesus died for you and me and everyone else and He is the only way. Jesus wouldn’t want a JROTC, or Army, Navy, etc. that kills people He loves and died for.
Originally posted here November 2011
The hand on the joystick makes a subtle twist.
The view dips into the confines of a ravine
then bursts free to reveal the lights of a
town glimmering like eyes in the dark face
of the ground.
A red light flickers across the screen.
The finger touches the trigger.
Twin streaks race out into the night,
a burst of fire,
a surgical strike
divorced from the gore.
Tomorrow there will be another announcement in
another newspaper about another death in this
the pilot of the drone,
the boy in front of his XBOX 360
killing from the comfort of
Reposted from November 6, 2011
Conflict is bad.
I am on the bus. The big fat bully, Glenn, has been sitting behind me, slapping the back of my head all the way home. I’ve taken it, though the dam inside me is about to burst.
Up ahead, through the bus windshield, I see my mailbox and suddenly I’m standing up, whipping around with my fist cocked, and landing a haymaker upside of Glenn’s head. I’m just as surprised as he is. Through his shock he jumps up, and we wrestle awhile. I tear his disgustingly nice gold chain from around his neck in the tussle. Ricky, my on-again-off-again friend and nemesis, ironically, is the person who breaks us up.
I don’t remember much about the long walk home down our dirt driveway, except that I was unhurt and Glenn got home with a big knot on his head and a broken chain in his pocket.
I do remember that Glenn and I became best buddies. Around the Fourth of July his daddy would buy him a whole crate full of fireworks. Glenn would bring them by our house and we’d have bottle rocket wars against each other. Conflict of another sort.
He and I even planned to start a turtle farm. We were going to go out into the woods and catch box turtles which we would sell to the local pet stores. It never came about, but it was fun to dream with a former enemy.
Growing up a Mennonite Yankee in Dixieland helped formulate the way I dealt with conflict. I was an outsider, outnumbered, different, quiet, patient to a fault, unwilling to fight, and so for the most part I kept my dukes to myself. That day on the bus I broke out of the mold and strangely, I earned the respect and friendship of my bullying neighbor. I still feel guilty about it. Perhaps this essay is an exercise in my ongoing wrestling with this dichotomy.
In my personal conflict style inventory, I discovered some interesting responses on my part in the midst of conflict. During calm times, when disagreement first arises I am a collaborator, then a forcer and on down to an avoider as my lowest score. There is a significant shift in my response if things are not easily resolved and emotions get stronger (storm times). At this time I am an avoider first. Collaborating falls midway with accommodating bringing up the rear.
What I gather from these responses is that initially in conflict I am good at collaborating and/or actively engaging in the conflict with a variety of responses. Avoidance is my least favorable response. However, if the conflict is not easily resolved, my emotions are engaged, and/or it simmers for awhile, I am an avoider extraordinaire. This response, coupled with my cultural experience of conflict as being bad, has led to me to struggle at times with how to engage conflict in a mutually constructive way.
Perhaps the greatest insight I have learned so far in my readings for this class is that conflict is not bad, no matter how much every fiber in my being resists the idea. I have dealt with conflict in the past because it’s a necessary evil. I may feel bad if I do, but I feel worse if I don’t.
To understand conflict as good, a vibrant part of life and relationships, is indeed a new and exciting concept, though like the bully on the bus I am still wrestling with the idea. Will I engage the fireworks, or stay in my shell like one of those box turtles my former adversary and I dreamed of catching in the woods?
October 2, 2003 – reflections for graduate conflict class
The young stand baggy-clothed
like kaleidoscopic trees
melting into the street,
indifferent to the automobile,
the veering wind of a ton of steel,
daring it to sweep them off of their
firmly planted feet.
I am the hunter,
the burning powder in this shell
shot from my driveway
in the early morning hours of a
on the hunt for something
when I was young.
I am the driver,
the careening dodger of teenage
prismatic speed bumps.
Lord have mercy on us when they
get their permits.