NPR reporter Daniel Zwerdling did a report for Weekend Edition on the backlash caused by the Fairmont, Minnesota, City Council’s decision to support the creation of a Department of Peace. Why do we fear peace? Is what happened in Fairmont typical of the country as a whole? Join Jean Feraca and her guests
for a discussion this hour on Here on Earth, Radio Without Borders.
- Daniel Zwerdling, NPR Weekend Edition commentator
- Judi Poulson, Chair of the Women's Peace Club in Fairmont, Minnesota
- Neal Breitbarth, Republican leader in Fairmont, Minnesota
- Morton Perlmutter, professor emeritus in the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- David 6/16/08: "I'm a card carring Democrat, a member of a traditional peace church, and a peace activist. I enjoyed the conversation and agree with most of what was said. My critical commment is about subtext. I cringed at the responses to the Republican guest from Minnesota. As much as I disagree with him on the level of the 'text' of his contribution, the subtext of the interchange strangely made his point. The man was simply not listened to. The peace guests were verbally polite, but clearly moving quickly to 'disarm' him. I was intrigued by the stated theme early in the program -- a wish to understand why peace programs scare some people. But as soon as the guest finished his comment, he was simply rebutted. The rebuttle was not obviously brutal, but it dismissed not only the guest, but the whole deep question of why vulnerability frightens people. Peace workers often gloss over this issue and suggest that 'yes, it is as simple as that.' This is the kind of emotional dismissal that is the subtext of much peace activism. The call-in quest that compared it to marriage had a better idea. Peace is hard and it starts with everyone getting heard -- until they feel heard. Besides, the information that might come out of really understanding reactions we don't understand could be very helpful. It might even transform the situation. Instead we jump to analysis, the results of which give us the same old ideas about people which are never nimble enough to make peace out of. I am a quieter peace activist these days, because I'm starting to get this idea that physical violence begins somewhere tiny and secret in the emotional dismissal that is everywhere. I'm just concerned that peace workers are not getting the peace issue on the deep emotional and listening level, and that often the subtext is more or less violent. I'm sure that a talk show is not a very easy place for something more surprising to happen, so I don't mean to jump on anybody, it's just that I think there is another level of peace effort that must be made -- and it's much harder than we think."
- Randall 6/16/08: "I believe the premise of the show is incorrect. It is not peace that opponents to "peace legislation" are against, but what is frequently pushed in the name of peace. Presidents Bush's 'peace' for the Middle East is no better than the kind of peace that many in the United Nations advocate -- peace at the expense of personal freedoms and rights. The problem with many advocates of peace is that they fail to recognize the reality of sinful human nature and that so long as sin continues, peace is attainable only by submission to whoever has the biggest stick. Even when the holder of the biggest stick is benevolent, that stick must always be used against those who want to advance their own agendas at the expense of others, for there will always be such people. Advocating and actively working for resolution of differences through non-violent means is laudable, but thinking that we can somehow achieve peace in a sin-filled world is, sadly, unrealistic."
- Cynthia 9/4/07: "It was so obvious while listening to your program and hearing the tension in the voices of those opposing the peace movement and the calm, peacefulness in the voices of those who were promoting peace. My final thought was in agreement with your guest, that peace is just that easy. It does come from within and when shared can multiply twofold. Maybe in a million years, if our planet still exists, those of us with a peaceful heart, (women of course :) will finally be in charge of the world and a peaceful resolve to all conflicts will prevail. Jean, I thank you for always being that 'peaceful, calming voice' on the radio."
- Jane 9/3/07: "I think that a 'Department of Peace' has such bad conotations because many connect this type of talk with the hippies of the 1960s. There appear to be many of that 1960s generation who want to relive their "glory days" and who just can't seem to grow out of that ideological fantasyland that was the 1960s. It reminds us of the radicals of that day, the free love that has gotten our society into so much trouble, and the kumbayah attitude of the hippie drug culture. Peace is a wonderful thing -- who wouldn't want it? However, the idea of a 'Department of Peace' is just so yesterday."
- Erika 7/13/07: "I'm a minister, preparing a sermon about peace. I used your April program, Is Peace a Dirty Word? to find a balance of arguments, oppositions, and aspirations that would allow me to speak prophetically about the hard, but rewarding, task of creating conditions that lead to peace in our communities and in our world. Thank you for a wonderful mix of guests. I'm glad that I discovered your program!"
- James 4/26/07: "I was intrigued by your Is Peace a Dirty Word? program. I was struck by how inclusive the female guest was, correcting the host that those who disagree with her and her peace club were not their 'enemies.' She then went on to say that those who disagree with her were 'good, decent folks,' who have the same goal, but just approach reaching that goal differently. She advocates proactively addressing violence; the male guest wanted to fight; both wanted 'peace.' To me (also a male), her approach seemed the more well-reasoned and effective approach. Thanks for an entertaining show."