Dems owe us peace
Maybe the Democrats in Washington owe the anti-war activists in America something. If Sara Donnelly is correct when she says in her article, "Does Peace Have a Chance?" (December 29, 2006), “[on November 7, Election Day] . . . Democrats rode a wave of anti-war discontent to gain control of the US House and Senate,” then it may be time for some well-earned political reciprocity. In her article, Donnelly portrays the anti-war movement as high in membership but low in visibility and clarity of mission. As invisible and unfocused as these organizations may or may not be, Donnelly’s article gives brief mention of a bill that could serve to take the confusion out of both antiwar activism and peace-building alike. This bill, to be reintroduced into Congress in early 2007, calls for the establishment of a US Department of Peace and Nonviolence and a cabinet-level Secretary of Peace. If, as Donnelly contends, the Democrats are now in control through the efforts of anti-war and peace activism nationwide, then the seat of our government should reflect the will of this constituency. It is fair. It is representational. It is time. And I hope our senators and representatives are listening, in Maine and in the nation.

The current legislation to establish a US Department of Peace and Nonviolence and a cabinet-level Secretary of Peace was introduced on the floor of the House in 2001. Since then, it has been reintroduced twice, in 2003 and 2005, and introduced to the floor of the Senate for the first time in 2005. It currently has 75 co-sponsors in the House and two co-sponsors in the Senate. The legislation is not meant to replace our current Department of Defense nor our Secretary of State. Nor is it designed to add extra layers of costly bureaucratic strangleholds on how we do business both at home and abroad. Its proposed funding is the equivalent of 2 percent of our current annual defense budget. The primary intention of a United States Department of Peace and Nonviolence is to establish peace as an organizing principle of our government and nation. The primary function of such a department is to research, articulate and facilitate nonviolent solutions to domestic and international conflict.

Why a Department of Peace? And why now? A sobering eight-letter word: survival. We are at a critical juncture in our 230-year history. To think that as a nation we can continue to act out of self-interest and a power-over mentality is both unrealistic and untenable. To believe that we can continue a path of unbridled economic growth and greed in full knowledge of dwindling global resources is immoral. And to identify oneself by nation alone is foolhardy. We share a planet together, and we are interdependently and inter-connectedly webbed as one. “We are in a new millennium,” begins the bill, “and the time has come to review age-old challenges with new thinking wherein we can conceive peace as not simply being the absence of violence, but the active presence of the capacity for a higher evolution of the human awareness, of respect, trust, and integrity.” Peace, in other words, is not just a holiday greeting but a working frame of reference and moral compass for a paradigm change in how our government does business both at home and abroad.

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