Thousands of Monuments to War, but Few to Peace

Gandhi at the SF Ferry Building

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, my thoughts turn to peace. It’s hard to keep them there, though, because of the chorus of voices that scream for violence and war.

As Autumn Sandeen noted on Wednesday, there is something truly ghastly when one of the biggest cheers at the recent GOP presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Library went up when Brian Williams made reference to the high number of executions in Texas under Rick Perry.

“What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here?” Williams asked. “The mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?”

“I think Americans understand justice,” Perry replied.

To borrow from Inigo Montoya, I do not think that word means what he thinks it means. To Perry — and to the folks that applauded — what they applaud, what they want, what they lust for is not justice, but vengeance.

There is a difference.

Faced with violence, too many voices are raised that call for vengeance. All too often, though, we become that which we attack. They send planes into our buildings, and we send predator drones into theirs. As the media embraces a huge 9/11 retrospective, my thoughts turn not to wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, “terror”, “drugs”, Libya . . . oh, wait, that’s not a war, and not even “hostilities”, right?), but to peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers . . .

At the top of the plaque attached to the Gandhi statue at the San Francisco Ferry Building pictured above is this quote from Gandhi:

Non-Violence is the greatest force at the disposal of Mankind. It is the supreme law. By it alone can mankind be saved.

I can think of thousands of monuments and statues dedicated to those who fight with guns and bombs and violence. Statues to those who fight non-violently, though, are few and far between. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. have their statues, sure — but for every one depicting these two giants, there are hundreds devoted to military figures, great and small.

Where are the statues to peacemakers?

Instead of statues to peacemakers like these, Congress wants to cut their budget.

I grieve for those who died ten years ago in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, as well as all who have died — and continue to die — in the wars spawned out of that attack. I long for the day when military fly-overs at football games become a thing of the past, and our cities have more statues to teachers than generals.

But the cheers for executions, and the willingness to spend billions of dollars on weapons to dole out death but mere pennies on social services that preserve life in one way or another for the most needy among us tell me that the day I long for is quite a ways off.

Obviously, then, the work of peacemaking must go on . . .


Photo h/t to Elaine with Gray Cats. If you know of other good statues to peacemakers, please put them in the comments.

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