Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I just found mepeace.org via an article in Haaretz. I've tried to start a discussion by posting the following (reproduced here with just the correction of one typo):

Hello everyone! I'd like to start this, my first post here, by thanking you all. Of course thanks to Eyal Raviv, who had such a big hand in creating this space. But also, thanks to everyone who comes here and makes it a community, and not just a collection of webpages. I hope we can come to understand each other better, but it's important to recognize the effort we've all made -already- toward a peaceful world just by coming here to listen and be heard.

What I write here is very much influenced by Buddhism, but I don't think it's limited in any way by that. Buddhism just provides me a language in which I'm able to express it. I hope you can understand it as part of your tradition as well. Knowing even a tiny bit of why you came here, I'm certain you already understand the basic requirements of peacemaking.

In particular, what I write here is influenced by a dharma talk I heard recently with Thich Nhat Hanh. (You can find the entire dharma talk here, if you'd like.) He made his reputation during the Vietnam war, when he tirelessly, and at great personal risk, went back and forth between the different sides, trying to facilitate a meaningful dialog. In this dharma talk, he said something that was very important to me, because it's something I have great trouble with myself.

He noted that peace activists are great at writing powerful protest letters, but few are good at writing love letters. The importance is that few of us are good at using our words to encourage others to listen and hear us. It's very easy to blame others for not listening --in truth, it's often their fault that they're unwilling-- but this attitude does not promote peace. This blaming polarizes us, pushes us apart, and makes communication harder. We have to fight against that impulse within ourselves so that we can bring people together.

Someone once told me a story about a Vietnam peace activist who found himself on a plane next to a farmer who supported the war. They began talking, and he began trying to convince this farmer that the war was wrong. It didn't bother the farmer that people were dying. He was even willing to justify killing children since they would grow up to be Communists. (That awful slogan, 'nits make lice.') They discussed napalm and the damage to the land. All along, the farmer agreed that these things sounded horrible, but he justified them. Finally, the activist said something, and the farmer almost jumped out of his seat. "They're killing Cows?!?!?!" The farmer raised cows, and he finally found himself unable to justify the violence.

Everyone here wants peace. If we keep talking long enough, we'll eventually find a few things we can agree upon and build upon. I know it can be hard to wait for that time (and that it might be hard to listen to a guy in New York preaching patience to someone dealing more directly with the violence). But I think all of us have some faith in this process. I want to say that I have faith that it works. And I want again to say thanks to people who are trying to make it work.

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