The Activists Meet The Peacemakers
A few days ago, I attended a meeting or gathering of some good people who were trying to re-establish an old concept of trying to live in peace. The task was to visualize a place in the future that was at peace and what it would look like. Noble idea but, and a big but here, it is not possible for an activist to see peace without also seeing the struggle to get there. There was this moment when in our group that was tasked to deal with Justice, half the room got up and left. The conversation was dealing with the occupation of Palestine and half of the peacemakers in the room wanted no part of this question, they wanted to see a place of peace, not destruction and chaos. They wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel, not a light from a Black Hawk helicopter killing women and children. They needed to see what the facilitator promised would be a path to Nirvana. This was a curious moment for me to watch. It reminded me of one reason why we have failed to stop the wars and occupations around the world, the word Empire was not even mentioned in a meeting that wanted to look for peace.
The fact that we were meeting in a church was not lost on me, how can you say fuck in a church without looking rude? Activists and Peacemakers should consider not meeting in places that have a long history of violence to talk about non-violence. You should meet in a place that enhances the open exchange of ideas, a Christian church is not a place for this; too dogmatic, too much baggage.
The people who came to ensure the real story of what is happening in Gaza and the Middle East got their say and that was good, but the night for me was also sad. Here were good people trying to work for peace being led and directed by people who are sure they have the answers, (The same answers that they had for the last forty years,) and that always makes me nervous. The question for me remains, can activists and peacemakers make room for each other and work to bring about a more just and peaceful world? Maybe the first step would be to acknowledge the difference between the peacemaker and the activist. The activist is like the person who will go up that ladder to win the battle for the castle, the peacemaker is like the person who will conclude the negotiations for the end of hostilities. Both must be present but are very different in what they do!
The second step---don't have a clue! BUT
As Martin Luther King, Jr. noted in his 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," the real obstacles in a liberation struggle are the moderate people "more devoted to 'order' than to justice," those who prefer "a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice."
The question for all "Peacemakers" should be, "Can you have peace without justice?"