My Peace Manifesto…

War is over!  If you want it.  In December of 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono bought space on billboards in 12 major cities worldwide and put those very words on them in the local language.  In addition, they sent out thousands of posters with those same words.  War is over!  If you want it.  When asked about it in interviews, Lennon talked about how each of us through personal accountability, owns a piece of peace.  He reminded us that we are individually empowered through non-violent means to demand the cause of peace.

I was watching a documentary on the Beatles with my daughter when they flashed the billboards on the screen and mentioned how powerful of a force John Lennon was in the public eye at the time. The documentary went on to describe how Lennon used his immense public influence to attempt to drive political change.  Granted, some of his methods (the Bed-Ins and Bagism) might have seemed strange at the time, but in today’s world of social media, ice bucket challenges, and reality television, who are we to criticize?

If Lennon was able to make as big a splash as he did with his “War is Over!  If you want it.” campaign in 1969, when Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram weren’t even dreamt about, what kind of an impact would he make today with all of the power of social media behind him?  Katy Perry currently has around 73 million Twitter followers.  Justin Bieber has 65 million.  Even Barack Obama has 62 million.  Eminem has over 54 million “Likes” on his Facebook page.  Rihanna 53 million.  The Instagram account has 38 million followers.  Justin Bieber (again) has almost 11 million followers.  We live in a world where popularity is measured by rankings in social media.  I have to believe that if Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram existed in 1969 when the Beatles were at the height of their hype, the names John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr would top all of those lists.

Now imagine what would happen if Katy Perry, Eminem, and Justin Bieber all shared the sentiment from Lennon, “War is over!  If you want it.” on their pages and then encouraged all of their followers to do the same.  Instantaneously touching hundreds of millions of lives with such a simple message.  I’m sure the impact would be infinitely greater than 12 cities worth of billboards and a few thousand posters.

If we were able to do that very thing, express a very simple but world changing message, what would it be?  Is “War is over!  If you want it.” still topical and relevant?  I feel that it is absolutely relevant, but it may not capture all of our current struggles.  It may not capture the despair that our homeless feel when they have to struggle each day to survive.  It doesn’t fully capture the separation that exists between the racially profiled and their own local law enforcement.  It doesn’t capture the isolation that our young people feel as they are bullied into eating disorders, anxiety, and suicide.  I think that in our new hyper-aware society, we need a revised message that captures our desire for a new way of thinking.

What do we hunger for?  Peace.

When do we want it?  Now.

Where do we want it?  Here.

How do we get it?  It begins with me.

Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.

Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.

Can something as simple as these few words have any impact at all in these days of media overexposure, virtual overload and sound bites?  I have to believe it can.  To believe otherwise is to accept that the world will not change, that the broken systems in place will continue to operate with implied social acceptance, and that we are doomed to repeat our bloody broken history.  I have to believe that our children will inherit a world that is better than the one we currently inhabit.

I’m a middle child, I have an older sister and a younger sister, and when we were growing up I was often forced into the role of “peacemaker” between them.  Typically, this entailed listening to both sisters separately so they both felt heard, then bringing them together over some kind of common ground.  Before long, we were all playing together again.  I’m not naïve enough to believe that we can instantly bring peace to the Middle East or to the racial battlegrounds in America.  However, I do believe that the same principles will hold up on a grander scale.  These conflicts have been going on for so long that no one believes that anything can change.  All sides claim that nobody is listening, and they cannot see any common ground.  We all feel a tremendous sense of hopelessness with how to handle this kind of situation.  Maybe we need a way to tackle just a portion of the problem so that it doesn’t overwhelm us.

I had an old boss who loved to say, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!”  Instead of trying to solve the elephant of world peace, or Middle East peace, we should take the first bite of that elephant and focus on personal peace.  Many religious and spiritual practices tell you that you cannot change anyone else’s behavior, you must focus on your own.  If we continue to practice this simple behavior, “Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.” in everything we do, it affects our every action.  When we are confronted by an angry coworker, we respond to them in peace instead of anger.  When we see a homeless person asking for money, we respond to them in peace instead of questioning their motives.  When we see rioting and looting on television, we respond to it in peace by looking for the broken systems that cause people to feel so hopeless that they feel they have no recourse but to riot.

We live in a time that is miraculous.  There should be more than enough for everyone.  Sadly, so many in the world go hungry while we throw food away in the United States.  So many in the world do not have any shelter while we have abandoned buildings in our cities.  So many are jobless while large corporations continue to lay off employees so the company can reap profits that their shareholders will never be able to spend in a dozen lifetimes.  Our world is crying out for some kind of change, and we are all hungry for something different than what we find in our broken society.

Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.

Peace means that everyone on this world should have enough to eat.  Peace means that everyone should have the benefit of shelter, and the respect and purpose of employment.  Peace means that we all constantly remind ourselves not of our differences, but of our similarity.  We are all human.  We are all God’s children.  Forget race, religion, nationality, economics, politics, and all the other nonsense that we put on ourselves.  Dare to live differently.  Dare to live peace.

We cannot change the world overnight.  But we can change it.  If I choose to live a life of “Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.”, and then others do the same, and we continue to share this message, changing the world is inevitable.  Like a glacier slowly but inevitably carving out the landscape, we can bring change.

Peace is now your personal mission.  Live peace yourself and share peace with others.  Make peace a priority in your own life, and look for it in the lives of those around you who are also trying to practice it.  Peace is a movement, a way of life.  And someday soon…War will be over!  Because we want it…

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