Every Friday for 19 years I’ve been with other folks at a peace vigil in front of the post office in Socorro, New Mexico (except during the lockdown). We’re dedicated to ending all war. Encouraged in the lead-up to the second war with Iraq, despised after the war started (“But we have to support the troops!”), now we are not only accepted but encouraged by almost all who drive by and wave. Week after week, we are now a regular part of the community. We don’t usually take a stand on elections: we don’t think there is a Republican or Democrat who wants to send their child off to die in a war or to come back destroyed from killing. Democrats as well as Republicans have led us to war. It’s enough to try to convince people that war is bad, that war should be eliminated, and that we support the troops by calling for them to be brought home.
Lately we’ve added a placard “Black Lives Matter”. Peace, the elimination of war, begins with peace at home, justice at home. We’ve always connected racism, military spending in the economy, militarized police, the rich getting richer and the poor dying, with ending war. So it was natural for us to support the Black Lives Matter movement, though we have only a very few blacks in our community (mostly Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo here).
We see the violence in some of the protests across the country. We see calls for justice that are meant to lead to action via anger. That is not the way. Anger can lead as an initial motivation, but must be left behind if we are not to do what we abhor: demonize others, destroy, hurt. There must be changes in policing, but we have to remember that there are good people who are in the police (that’s easier here in our small town where we know the police and sheriff’s deputies). Many are dedicated to helping. And for those police who are “out of control”, it is for us to ensure that there is control, and to talk with them, engage them time and time again, hoping to change minds. They are afraid, afraid that if blacks, people of color, women get power, they will do to them what they’ve done to blacks and people of color and women. They can see the world only in terms of violence, power, not imagining that we can live together helping each other. In part that’s the world we live in: America, where we compete, and if you are left behind it’s your fault, summarized with “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?”
Engaging others, calming their fears. That cannot be done with anger. Anger is destructive. The “fight” for justice should not be a fight but a constant movement toward justice, talking, engaging, not being moved from our great desire for justice and peace, organizing, speaking truth to power. We at our peace vigil always remember “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.” And we remember, too, what Mother Teresa said, “Peace begins with a smile.” Peace and justice do not begin with hatred, with violence.
We’re at the Plaza every Friday at 4:45 p.m. across from the Post Office here in Socorro. Hope to see you there–or write to us about your vigils and movements.