Preventing War – What Can I Do?
As a longtime Buddhist, I have been interested in the idea of promoting peace for years. The problem is, what can I, as a person not involved in activities such as making national policy do to promote peace?
This post is inspired by the book Six Tales from Sixmile Creek, a free bonus from signing up for Luke Bauserman’s Reader’s Group. You can find a link for signing up for this book in the back of his book Some Dark Holler (see my review of Some Dark Holler here).
Six Tales from Sixmile Creek is basically a compilation of folk tales and original sources Bauserman used in creating his book Some Dark Holler. As such it is overall a bit on the dry side. However, the first chapter, in which he references a description of a Civil War refugee camp and the incident on which he based the plot of his book.
These women were saturating their children’s minds with the stories of the wrongs they had endured. I heard them repeat over and over to their children the names of men which they were never to forget, and whom they were to kill when they had sufficient strength to hold a rifle. The stolid manners, the wooden faces, the lustreless eyes, the drawling speech of these people, concealed the volcanoes of fire and wrath which burned within their breasts. It was easy to foresee the years of bloodshed, of assassination, of family feuds, that would spring from the recollection of the war, handed from widowed others to savage-tempered sons, in the mountain recesses of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. And long after the war closed rifles continued to crack in remote mountain glens, as the open accounts between families were settled.*
* The Recollections of a Private Soldier by Frank Wilkeson, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1886.
Luke Bauserman. Six Tales From Sixmile Creek (Kindle Locations 56-63). Kindle Edition.
This passage reminded me of our ongoing quest for world peace and the question of what we, as individual people, can do to further this cause. In other contexts, I have read that, whereas we (collectively) spend a great deal of time and money on researching more and better ways of killing people and more and better strategies for fighting wars, we as a people spend very little of our resources learning what will promote peace.
Of course, the actions suggested by this account ought to be almost no-brainers: if we ever wish to see genuine peace in the world, we should refrain from holding grudges against those who have done us wrong, and particularly, we should refrain from forcing these grudges on our children. But this seems to be easier said than done. The example referred to in this account indicated that the mothers who were passing their desire for revenge on to their sons had suffered at the hands of bands of lawless brigands who pretended to be associated with both sides of the conflict that had just ended. These people had killed their family members, destroyed their crops, and burned their homes, leaving them with nothing. So you can see how they might be a little upset.
This particular incident took place at the end of the American Civil War. This resonates for me because, having lived in the “great and beautiful” State of Tennessee for my whole life, I can still see and hear the echoes of the Civil War over a hundred and fifty years after it happened. It’s true that, for most people, the old feuds and grudges are no longer as immediate as they once were, and if you live in a larger city, you don’t hear as much of the “the South will rise again” rhetoric as there used to be even fifty years ago. But new incidents keep coming up all the time that bring the old feelings out into the open again. Memories, and the romanticized stories, of the old incidents, probably do a lot to poison race relations too, even so long after we should know better.
The American Civil War is the case with which I am most familiar, but this mindset is by no means limited to this one instance. In some parts of the world groups of people have been fighting each other for centuries. There will be a war. People are killed. Crops are burned. Villages are destroyed. Women are raped. And on and on. Whoever is left vows revenge. As soon as they can scrape themselves off the ground and get together a few weapons, they do their best to start up another war. And if they are successful in getting their revenge, there are a whole group of people from the other wide who now have reason to feel themselves injured. These people vow revenge. And the whole process starts over again.
So, seriously, the only way we have to slow this process before it leads to the destruction of the whole world (because that is the only way there will be nobody left to vow revenge) is to, at a minimum, keep our grudges and feuds to ourselves. We should not try to draft our children to carry out our vows of revenge. This is something we can do only one person at a time, and unless we can persuade others to do it as well, the effects will seem to be small. Doubtless, there are other factors that lead to war as well, and it would be to our advantage to know what these are and how to head them off before they get out of control. But if we can’t at least do this one thing for ourselves, how do we stand a chance of stopping even bigger forces?
So, what do you think? Would you like to see more posts similar to this one on this blog in the future? If not, what would you rather talk about? Please share your ideas in the comments. Let me know what you think!
This month's images are from Pixabay