The outline of Fort Pitt is preserved in downtown Pittsburgh, marked on a jutting point of land where two rivers intersect and form the Ohio River. The historic site recalls many battles and many deaths over many decades.
Right across the river is another sort of monument: A statue of Mister Rogers. Fittingly, a tribute to a peacemaker, right across the way from a site of protracted war.
You don’t see many tributes to those who make peace, do you?
We love to erect monuments and hold parades for those who wage wars and those who fight wars and those who lose their lives in wars. But what about those who save lives by preventing wars?
How do we honor those who try to save us from our worst impulses and show us how to live in peace? What do we do for the ones who try to point is in another direction?
Once I started paying attention to our public monuments, I was struck by how many we have honoring wars. It’s true in many nations, especially those that have the biggest armies and spend the most money to fight the most wars. War becomes a favored solution to disagreements: Send in troops, drop bombs, honor the dead, threaten more hostilities.
Perhaps it comes down to an unwillingness to pay the price for peace.
We don’t want to give up our deluded thinking that we matter more than someone else. We don’t want to let go of the twisted idea that we can end war by conducting more war. We can’t get past the wrong-headed notion that our self-interest is all that matters. We convince ourselves that we’re always right no matter what we do.
Peace is much more than an absence of war. It’s an attitude. Wars don’t just happen; neither does peace. We have to come around to see that peace is in every nation’s self-interest, in every person’s self-interest. And then we have to work for it.
Peace never comes at the end of a sword or a musket or a rifle or a rocket launcher. That kind of peace is always superficial and temporary. The next war is just around the corner. More bullets will fly, more people will get crippled and killed, more cities will be reduced to rubble.
That is, unless we do something to try to break the cycle.
An eye for an eye, Gandhi said, only makes the whole world blind.
Maybe it comes down to being willing to make the same investment in peace that we make in war. Valuing peacemakers more than generals. Figuring ways to work things out without killing each other.
“Peace means far more than the opposite of war!” Fred Rogers once said.
There will always be those who prefer war over peace, death over life, hatred over love, destruction over creativity. But history shows that when enough people are willing to work for peace and justice, they come about in different ways.
We need peacemakers.
Many churches have a symbol of someone who gave his life while showing what it means to wage peace: Put away your sword. Love your enemies. Drop that stone you want to cast at someone.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they truly act as God’s children.
Let’s start by throwing a parade for them.
As Mister Rogers put it: “I have long believed that the way to know a spiritual sense is to know it in our real life. I think the best way to understand about God and peace is to know about peace in our everyday lives.”
Let the parade start there.