Christmas is full of exhortations to work towards a more peaceful world. But when you get right down to it, what can we actually do, today, to help usher in that world? While there’s no magic button that can be pressed or perfect argument that can be made to bring about peace on Earth, there are a few things we can do to work for peace.
The first thing I’ll mention is something I have some experience with- counter-recruiting. Counter-recruiting is just what it sounds like- counterprogramming the messaging from military recruiters particularly and from our entire culture generally. Young people can go their entire lives without hearing anything bad about the military, and when the recruiter comes calling and they are faced with the choice between mountains of student debt, immediately entering an uncertain work force, or a full-time job with generous benefits that offers to pay for college later, the choice, for far too many, is easy. It’s easy because, as those of us with military experience know, they don’t have all the facts. This work will come naturally to anti-war veterans- just go in there and tell them why the military sucks!- but the venerable American Friends Service Committee offers resources and guides for those, veteran or no, who want to pursue this very rewarding line of work. Convincing even one young person that she has better choices than state servitude is immensely gratifying and makes a tiny but real and material dent in the war machine.
Another great option is Iraq Veterans Against the War’s ongoing Operation Recovery, a project to stop the re-deployment of traumatized troops. What makes Operation Recovery so effective is that it is something even the most bloodthirsty hawks have a hard time arguing with, and yet every step towards the goal puts a little more grit in the military’s gears. At Ft. Hood Operation Recovery, led by the great folks at the Under the Hood Cafe, has made great strides, forcing the commanding general to issue policy guidance to the entire post directing that soldiers not be impeded in their efforts to seek mental health care and that commanders respect physicians’ orders regarding soldiers’ mental and physical health.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, just be a consistent voice for peace. When the hawks start beating the drums of war and the compliant news media start baying for blood, it can feel awfully lonely to be a dove, but you almost certainly are not alone. As we recently during calls for American bombing in Syria and as polling has consistently shown over recent years, war is unpopular and the people are sick to death of it. Rather than letting ourselves be cowed by the talking heads on TV and the screeches of the bloodthirsty maniacs in government, let’s educate ourselves on the crisis du jour and make consistent, persistent arguments against war. It’s a little scary being the first voice at the office or the holiday table to speak out against a war, but I can tell you from experience that once you open the door, others will join you.
In my Christmas op-ed I wrote about some of the Psalms and other scriptures I remember from my church-going youth, but the hymn I remember most clearly is somewhat sappy ditty written by a husband and wife in 1955. The organist would announce it most often as the recessional, and we’d all stand, open our hymnbooks, and tunelessly drone in that inimitable Catholic way these words: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” It’s a long, hard, and uncertain road to peace, but it starts with us, today.