Peace Treaties and Feather Pens
Can words and ideas take the place of guns and bombs? Can peace treaties and beautiful feather pens take the place of wars and casualties? Like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi, I believed, conflicts can truly be settled with words and ideas. In addition, I believe that conflicts can truly be settled with a handshake, high-five, hug, or kiss. There have been many wars have been won through the use of artillery. But then there have been many wars that have been prevented with just simple words, ideas, and nonviolent actions. History has changed so much in these short years because of those simple words, ideas, and nonviolent actions. If history can be changed and conflicts overcome with peaceful ways why not take this route to achieve lasting peace.
Many people when thinking of “peaceful people”, imagine hippies, peace signs, tye-dyed t-shirts, and colorful vans. Then there’s Woodstock with its psychedelic music, and the sunflowers in everyone’s hair. But when I think of “peaceful people” I think of the firm believers and activists who accomplished the great movements throughout all of history by using nonviolent acts and peaceful protests to overcome the wars of unrighteousness. Mohandas Gandhi states:
Of war, too, I need say nothing. It has always been more or less chronic since the rise of the Roman Empire; but there is now undoubtedly a disinclination for war among all civilized peoples….We need not be afraid of ideals or of reducing them to practice even to the uttermost. Ours will only then be a truly spiritual nation when we shall show more truth than gold, greater fearlessness than pomp of power and wealth, greater charity than love of self. (338)
He was able to lead his country with nonstop peaceful nonviolent actions that gained them the freedom that they deserved. Freedom? it is what everyone deserves and wants. But that freedom is not freedom without peace.
That was what the Civil Rights Movement was all about—to be free to live in peace with one another. With only street marches, sit-ins, and their voices, the people in this movement and now today there is freedom hand in hand with peace. One such “peaceful person” who helped greatly to begin and succeed in this movement was Martin Luther King, Jr. In his Letter from Birmingham City Jail, King speaks of peaceful actions and their rewards, “Over the last few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends”(216). King wanted peace for his people so he fought for that with words and peaceful demonstrations such as sit-ins, marches, and of course his “I Have A Dream” speech. His words support his movement— the retaliation that was afflicted on the peaceful protesters did not come to what the retaliators believed was a moral end—segregation was terminated.
Margaret Mead, Warfare: An Invention? Not a Biological Necessity, seems to agree with King’s logic, “There is a way of behaving which is known to a given people and labeled as an appropriate form of behavior” (277). Mead would agree with King that what the retaliators did to the peaceful protestors was not appropriate behavior and not the way of behaving. The way of behaving was in favor of the peaceful protestors and still even today labeled as appropriate behavior.
The question is rather words and ideas can take the place of guns and bombs. Do words and ideas or guns and bombs cause deaths? Guns and bombs both cause death and are used in wars. In every single war in American history lives were lost—on both sides. In the early wars there were just guns then cannons and now atomic bombs which all contributed too many deaths. Those weapons are only used in war and words are never spoken in war unless to command the death of another human being. As Mead states, “…warfare…men engaged in it and killed one another in the course of a war because killing is what is done in wars” (277). Mead wrote these words around the time of World War II. One may wonder if some words and ideas were exchanged—maybe even the signing of a Peace Treaty with a feather pen—perhaps an atomic bomb would have never been dropped and many lives spared. Just one word, idea, or peaceful action could have prevented such devastation.
As a Japanese writer, Kenzaburo Oe agrees to a great extent. In his written work, The Unsurrendered People, he gives the readers a vision and front row seat of the very same devastation mentioned. Readers are able connect with Oe by recognizing him, through his words, as a true witness:
“The recovery effort has continued for two decades, and continues even now….The atomic destruction of Hiroshima was the worst ‘deluge’ of the twentieth century….the twentieth century has become afflicted with cancer? the possession of nuclear weapons by various nations? for which there is no known cure”(290,291).
All this could have been prevented, if words and ideas were discussed and exchanged and in turn opening up a new route that would have saved many lives. War itself is just revenge in the participants’ eyes. In the Leviathan, Hobbes writes, “For it can never be that Warre shall preserve life, and Peace destroy it” (110). War is fought with the intention of killing the life God has put on this earth. There’s no other goal, purpose, or ending when it comes to war and only if peace is made will it end.
Many may say that a war is necessary to preserve the lives of a country but still lives are being destroyed in another country. Hobbes goes on to say, “Evil: From whence arise Disputes, Controversies, and at last War…And consequently all men agree on this, that Peace is Good, and therefore also the way, or means of Peace, which…are Justice, Gratitude, Modesty, Equity, Mercy…are good, that is to say Morall Vertues” (111). By only punishing the ones responsible for initiating war justice is achieved then allows the innocent lives to show gratitude for evading war and destruction. Being modest in the good decision made brings the equity from the ones that the war was evaded returning good for good. Lastly, mercy is given to all, no deaths are mourned and in turn making stronger alliances while bringing peace throughout.
Without Peace we would not be able to do many of the things we do today. How can we function with chaos, hatred, anarchy, and war? No happiness would or can come from that. Would our families and love ones be safe? Would we have to keep looking over our shoulders and in turn not know the path we take? In Jean Bethke Elshtain’s, What Is a Just War? it states, “None of the goods that human beings cherish, including the free exercise of religion, can flourish without a measure of civic peace and security” (294). We would be at each other’s throat more than we are now if there weren’t those “peaceful people” that used words and ideas rather than guns and bombs. We would not even be human. Elshtain continues, “Without civic peace? a basic framework of settled law and simple, everyday order? human life descends to its most primitive level. By primitive I mean rudimentary, the bare minimum? we struggle just to stay alive” (295). Ours eyes and minds would focus only on how to keep breathing. Paranoia and suicide would walk this earth—a dog-eat-dog world. Every man for himself. Not even unpeaceful words muttered just guns and bombs snatching life after meaningless life. This is the definition for war and the exact opposite is peace.
Maybe—just maybe there’s a small flicker of hope. Peace Treaties and Feather Pens seem to have slowly reemerged. Peace signs are everywhere now, more musicals are being made, high waisted clothing is back in style, and more “singing about your feelings” music seems to be at the top of the charts. Little gestures that are not recognized immediately but are the giant steps toward words and ideas and those oh so missed Peace Treaties and Feather Pens. But there’s the one gesture that receives recognition every time—Give [peace] and you shall receive [peace]. This notion is similar to the words and actions that King expressed. There is now peace among the people because of the peaceful words and ideas shown. No guns and bombs were used to achieve this great success and now that “war” is finished. The war that we now face could, should, and can be settled with words and ideas—from looking at history— in reality, peace seems to conquer all.