Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It All Starts With Believing

As often happens, I awoke this morning with my mind whirling. Today, I awoke thinking of Shakespeare's Henry V's "St. Crispin's Day" speech, William Wallace's "Just One Chance" speech, and George Patton's speech to the 3rd Army. Each of these speeches, yes, even Patton's, moves me, a pacifist, to want to join my "band of brothers" (and sisters), weapon in hand, and leap into the fray. Why? The words are so compelling that something awakens in my being. I'm not sure what it is, something primordial perhaps, but whatever it is, it is powerful, and it is passionate, and it turns me into a we, by connecting me to my fellow human beings in a momentarily purposeful, noble action.

On the other hand, when we go to peace marches or rallies, we hold hands, and we sing, and we give one another flowers, or we hold candles--all symbols of peace, all lovely, individuals joined together, but not quite the same way because nothing in our peace activities  lights the fire in the belly quite like the St. Crispin's Day speech. Think of peace songs. Many of the songs about peace are hesitant and tentative: "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", "One Day," Waiting on the World to Change," "Give Peace a Chance," and "Blowin' in the Wind," to name a few.

Perhaps everything gets muddled because when we think we are thinking of peace, we are actually thinking anti-war, which is a very different thing. It is a negative, rather than a positive. I've marched in a few anti-war marches carrying signs (two memorable times with all three of my sons), and I've sung anti-war songs since I was a child. I long for no more war, and I long for peace, but in hindsight, it seems like my activism has all been against war. I want to change that and be active for peace. But how? 

First, we need to define peace. When I define it, I mean flourishing as well as no more war. Flourishing is something we can all get behind, right? It's something positive, and we can be passionate about it, can't we? Or can we?

Why, I wonder, aren't there speeches about peace that rouse the listener to action like the St. Crispin's Day speech does for battle? I took this question to my students today because we are discussing peace and war, but we could not come up with an adequate answer. So I am bringing it to you, my thoughtful blog readers. What can we say, what can we do to rouse those who long for peace to passionate action? I'm eager to hear your ideas, and I'm eager for someone, one of you perhaps, to write the St. Crispin's Day speech for Peace. We need the words first to rouse us, to rally us, and to unite us together in a noble purpose much larger than our individual selves. We need a muscular, dynamic, robust, vigorous, vibrant peace if we are going to truly make the world ready for amity. And we cannot lose heart. It's so easy to say that peace won't work, that we humans prefer division to unity, certainly history attests to that. But we cannot give in to our doubts; we must believe that peace is possible. It all starts with believing. Then, we must talk about how and what and why until peace is no longer just an abstraction but becomes a  reality.

Take care,


St. Crispin's Day speech by Kenneth Branagh in the film Henry V:

William Wallace's "Just One Chance" speech by Mel Gibson in Braveheart:

Patton's Speech by George C. Scott in the movie Patton:

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  1. JFK, with "ask not" speech, and MLK, with "I have a dream" speech, reached that level of inspiration to action. However, I think war is so much easier than peace. Until the broken bodies come home.

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