Question Something: What is Peace?

On Tuesday night, while watching President Obama address the nation about the crisis in Syria, I felt a sudden sense of déjà vu.  Like I had seen, or heard this type of speech before:

(President George W. Bush issues an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, March 17, 2003).

Many…

(President Bill Clinton addresses the Kosovo intervention, March 24, 1999).

…many…

(President Bill Clinton discusses a Bosnian peace agreement, November 27, 1995).

…times before.

(President George H.W. Bush declares the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, February 24, 1991).

In fact, with the possible exception of a few brief periods, the United States has been involved in one armed conflict or another for my entire life – over twentysomething years.  That seems unfathomable not only as a measure of time, but also in terms of societal impact.  It simply doesn’t feel like we’ve been at war.

There’s been no “Uncle Sam Wants You!” campaign, and no Rosie the Riveters taking over the factories.  There’s been no push to buy war bonds, or to ration our usage of aluminum.  Nor has there been a grand, New York City ticker tape parade to welcome the troops home from war.  In another era, ignoring America’s involvement in war was nearly impossible, but now almost all it takes is the click of a tv remote.

We don’t have to serve in the armed forces because there is no draft.  We’re not forced to take over for the men in the factories because they aren’t leaving their jobs in droves (and most factories have left the United States).  Instead of being asked to conserve and buy war bonds, we’re encouraged to spend, spend, and spend some more!  And the iconic ticker tape parades of the past seem like a frivolous expense for a war many never wanted.  Most of us just live our lives “business as usual,” with only the occasional news report to inform us that anything is amiss.

So, if this is what war feels like, what does peace feel like?  Is there any difference?  What is peace?  Is it simply the absence of war, or is it something greater?  Is it the existence of great prosperity?  The existence of universal happiness?  Joy?

And if most twentysomethings have never lived in a time of peace, how can we be leaders of a peaceful future?  Yes, we can certainly take lessons from peaceful decades past.  We can “learn from history,” as they say. But would that really be helpful?  Aren’t these the same lessons that our current leaders supposedly drew from?  Are those lessons even applicable to our rapidly changing society?  For some reason, I don’t think many women would find the mentalities of the late 1940s and early 1950s very palatable today.

So where does that leave us?  In a state of perpetual war and conflict? I sincerely hope not.

– l  xo

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