The International Day of Peace can hopefully help us probe what peace means–Soon it’ll be Christmas and we shall talk about the spirit of peace, and then do what we do every year and go back to our ordinary selves forgetting all about it. But peace is more than a wish, more than a slogan at Christmastime. In fact peace is a very complex subject. I forgot who said it, but when I was in graduate school I remember reading that peace is more than the absence of war. It would have to be, wouldn’t it, if we ever are to learn how to avoid wars altogether. For me the thought was the beginning of a life long search. Perhaps it will inspire you too.
September 21st will be the 27th celebration of The International Day of Peace. It was established through UN Resolution 3667 in 1981. The resolution says the day “offers a cessation of violence and conflict throughout the world, and the related importance of achieving the broadest possible awareness…” We include peace in our prayers but not in our schools’ curricula and rarely in our daily lives. And yet if we are to make progress in that area, we are going to have to be more inclusive, more pro-active and at the very least more thoughtful.
It is doubtful that the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan will take a day off, or that hostilities in the rest of the world will observe it. Still for the rest of us, let it be a day to think about what peace is, what it entails, how we can as a country participate in it, and what we as individuals can do.
Dual citizenship enriches one’s understanding and does not divide loyalties–More and more people are becoming dual citizens, holding U.S. passports along with passports from their native countries. It is a trend that is disturbing many traditionalists, saying that one cannot be loyal to both the United States and another country. Obviously those who say this must not have met people holding dual citizenship, nor known many naturalized citizens. Naturalized citizens even when they don’t hold dual citizenship tend to maintain ties with their native culture. They may be bi-lingual–or more–travel back and forth, see the differences, understand strengths and weaknesses of each culture, and still hold a commitment to the United States. In the meanwhile their participation and grasp of what makes the U.S. a democracy is clearly enriched.Those who hold dual citizenship are no different. It may be harder for them to break ties with a part of their lives or there may be a special reason for a need to hold 2 passports, that does not make them bad American citizens. In fact it gives their American status layers single passport holders do not have. In a globalized world and an interdependent economy dual citizenship has its place in practical terms. On a larger more spiritual plane, it becomes a pebble in forging what will hopefully one day become one world. And to those who still doubt the relevance and benefit of dual citizenship, I would simply ask, does a parent love a child less because he or she has another?
What united us after 9/11 can do so again if we make the effort to reconnect to it–After the 9/11 tragedy, we ceased to be separate groups. We weren’t young and old, blacks and non-blacks, Democrats and Republicans or rich and poor, we were one people. Given the reaction of the world, it can be said we weren’t even Americans and non, we were one people. Now seven years later we stand as divided as we know how to be, not only from other countries, but also from each other. Republicans and Democrats, for example might as well be antagonists rather than citizens with the same nationality, and regardless of who wins next November, the divide is sure to remain. Indeed a spirit of unity connected us after 9/11, a sense we need reconnect to. It may be easier said than done, but it can’t be done unless we learn to recognize what divides us. To do that pondering the difference between our present and ourselves seven years ago may be instructive. We were able to be one people because we automatically understood that there was something stronger than the groups we classify ourselves into, we instinctively connected to an inner reality that heralded our common humanity. It’s not that we forgot there were differences, it’s that in that one instant in the midst of tragedy, we put them in their right place, behind us, and transcended our ideas of what we normally think those differences mean. Short of another tragedy, I can think of no program, no recipe, no book, no amount of money, no one person that could unite us again. But I do believe that each one of us in the privacy of our own heart and conscience can resolve to do what we need to do to reconnect to our underlying unity. If we can–when we do–those who died and those who lost loved ones will then be redeemers.
Can Twitter, along with other similar programs, lull us into thinking we know others? If one thinks of it, the idea of texting or emailing your daily activities in order to share them with others does sound fun. And too it speaks of a new idea about privacy. Privacy no longer involves a touch of secrecy, but discernment about who is entitled to know about us and what it is they are to know. In that the whole movement–I don’t think that’s the wrong word–begun with Facebook and MySpace and continuing with innovations like Twitter has made us rethink our concept of what is private and what privacy means all the while bringing a contribution to a popular culture too often relying on hiding facts, spinning them, or distorting them. Celebrities do it and politicians are very good at it.
But there’s another side to the Twitter phenomenon, one that I truly wonder is as much of a contribution. In fact, I wonder if it could be or become a problem. Is knowing people through the lens of daily activities or moods entered in bits and pieces really knowing them? True, I am over 30 and my perspective on the world includes the pre-personal computer world. But some realities are beyond generations, they exist–albeit I grant in modified versions–regardless of how old one is. Knowing someone is such a reality. I can know that my friend Sylvia walks her dog, drives to Santa Barbara, talks to her friend Susan everyday or drinks wine with dinner, but what does that tell me about her? What makes Sylvia special, how does she cope with adversity, what is she working towards, how has she grown over time, what has she learned from living? In short the kind of questions that would help me see, reach, touch her core, her inner self. It seems to me if we want to Twitter and know the surface of people’s lives, that’s fine so long as we don’t fool ourselves that we really know them. That’s much more involved.
And there’s something else that puzzles at me about Twitter: the time it takes to input activities. Personally, I can think of a lot I would rather do at a computer screen.