Step up against gun violence

Give the vigilante attitude a rest and start planning for peace.

I am so tired of people saying we shouldn’t ban assault rifles—not handguns, not hunting guns, but freaking giant assault rifles, for Pete’s sake—because they don’t kill people. So what were they made for, then—planting daisies?

I suppose we shouldn’t ban toxic substances from our food, either, because they don’t kill people; people eating them kill themselves! Babies deserve to get sick from the BPA laced in their sippy cups; damn children need to pay attention to what they’re drinking from, amirite?

Look, I like to shoot. When I was ten, my dad taught me how to shoot a handgun and I’m not bad at it. It’s fun to shoot cans. I like to shoot bows and arrows at targets, too. But I would gladly give up any of these things if it meant protecting people and moving toward a peaceful world—and make no mistake, we cannot have peace with the prevalence of weapons in our lives. I honestly feel safer with a baseball bat in my hand than a gun, anyway.

Why? Because if you have your gun locked away, on safety, unloaded and stored like you’re supposed to (especially if you have children) how the hell is that going to help you when you have an intruder in your home standing over your bed, ready to harm you? My bat by the bed gives me much more confidence. I have had one since I was a teenager and learned what some men do to women, and it gives me a peace of mind that a gun would only take away.

Here’s something else. I have a seven-year-old, and you can tell me to lock up a gun (we don’t have any in the house, by the way; I don’t even own one) and it will be safe. I will tell you that you are stupid. My daughter is a clever little trickster who can find ways into locks even with my husband and me at our most responsible behavior. Kids do this; it’s how they learn and explore. If you tell them not to go into the cabinet, they’re going to find a way into Narnia with or without your help—and to your gun.

How many have to die before you’re willing to move toward peace, America? States that have passed strict gun regulations have fewer incidences of death from guns, and countries who have passed such legislation show improvements as well. Look, even if you won’t pass a ban, there is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring more red tape to jump through! You have waiting periods, insurance, licenses and other requirements for things like fishing, buying a car, and getting married. Throw all of those in with a gun safety class and I’d be much happier. That mandatory waiting period might just give a possible shooter the day or two he needs to reconsider—and with so much work to do, some unhinged person isn’t going to waltz in, grab a gun, and start shooting right away.

Of course, I also like Chris Rock’s ideas on the issue (language warning).

Click here to voice your opposition to loose gun laws.


Making a peace curriculum

Here are several resources you can use to teach peace.

Recently a homeschooling mom in one of our support groups asked about designing a peace curriculum, so I shared all of the resources that I have used or bookmarked over the years with her. It turns out that there are dozens of places online that already exist that you can use in teaching peace. Here are just a few ideas.

Peace Course is a wonderful study to do with middle schoolers, teens and adults. When you finish it, if you pass the test, you’ll even be provided with a certificate. I am currently taking the course right now and am amazed by it. I’ve hung quotes from it over my desk and listened to the mp3 of The Golden Rule in dozens of religious several times. It’s absolutely beautiful—and absolutely vital in times like these.

The Institute for Humane Education has great recommendations for peace books, lesson plans, and even distance learning courses for parents. I’ve wanted to take one of their courses for a long time. I read founder Zoe Weil's "Most Good, Least Harm" and really liked it; I passed it on to someone else years ago, as Weil asks that readers do.

Several other places have lists of wonderful picture books as well as longer nonfiction books for adults and teens about peace and social justice issues. Teaching for Change has a wonderful selection, as does The Global Village School—which, by the way, I would use if I used a curriculum. Child Peace Books had an enormous selection, and I have loved every one that I’ve read so far. I reserve many books from these sites at our local library and access them freely.

Teaching Tolerance has a huge selection of great lesson plans for teaching peace, acceptance, and diversity, as does The Zinn Education Project. The Peace Jam project looks very interesting, though I am having a hard time finding how to access it in my area.

For adults and teens, the United Nations offers several free courses you can take in peace as well. They also feature a curriculum for teachers here. The Peace Corps also offers a wonderful interactive website for children to explore service online. And finally, Religious Tolerance is a website I recommend to anyone wishing to learn more about religion all over the world.

Which peace programs have you used? Do you have any to recommend? Share them in the comments below.

The Wonder of Food Not Bombs


Food Not Bombs is an important peaceful group that essentially consists of several independent collectives that all serve vegan food to others; oftentimes its members feed needy and homeless people. In doing so, they practice a peaceful form of helping others and simultaneously standing against violence and the oppression of animals as well. It is also the name adopted of a sort of movement of sharing vegan food and protesting war, violence, and poverty at the same time.
One of the ideas behind Food Not Bombs is that there is, and should be, a disgust at the fact that hunger is allowed to exist within such abundance. It is driven entirely by volunteers, not a paid staff like more traditional non-profit organizations utilize. 
While there are many different variations within the groups that are scattered throughout the country, some things are always implemented as part of the ideals behind Food Not Bombs. First of all, no meat is ever used; the food is always vegan or vegetarian. It’s usually completely vegan in that no animal by-products are used to create the meals. With the horror of the abuse and violence committed against farm animals, vegan cuisine is becoming more popular throughout the world, and there are thousands upon thousands of vegan dishes that volunteers can create.
Another thing that all Food Not Bombs group must do is serve this food free to everybody. There is no discrimination. Yes, it’s important to feed those who are in need and especially those who suffer from hunger and homelessness, but it’s also great to share the food produced without violence to others who may not have tried vegan food before. It’s very important that all chapters be completely dedicated to practicing non-violence. 
Also, each chapter is independent and can make its own decisions independently of the larger ideas of the group as a whole. The consensus process is used for decision-making in independent chapters. 
If you want to volunteer for the group or perhaps start one in your area, please do. This is only a once-per-week commitment in most cases, and oftentimes you can commit to less time than that, depending on your schedule. You may find further information on this inspirational group at the official website, Food Not Bombs

Peace and Pacifism

Peace is the state of mutual harmony among people, groups, or countries. It can also be a state of mind that inspires our actions of pacifism. Peace and pacifism, in fact, go hand in hand. Pacifism is essentially the opposition to violence and war to resolve problems, to settle conflicts, or to gain powers; it’s really the opposition of violence altogether, in my opinion, but many definitions of pacifism reflect many different views and uses of the term. Most agree that it is the belief in non-violence.
“Pacifism” as a word took on popularity after the Universal Peace Congress was held for the tenth time in 1901. However, the word “pacifism” originates with Émile Arnaud, a French activist for peace who lived from 1864 to 1921. The ideas behind both peace and pacifism have been held by people for many centuries before the terms were coined. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. passionately advocated for pacifism, and he was convinced by such leaders as Ghandi and Howard Thurman that Jesus Christ was also a pacifist. Other famous people who have declared a belief in pacifism include Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Schweitzer, Carl Sagan, John Lennon, Henry David Thoreau, and John Lennon. 
Non-violent protests have proven to be effective and also a testament to the possibility of a truly pacifist world. Even so, sometimes authorities prove to be violent toward those in peaceful protests, such as what happened in the civil rights movement. Ultimately, though, pacifism as demonstrated through non-violent activism has proven to be respected and one of the things that can truly change the world.

Martin Luther King Jr. remembered with day of peace and activism

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who stood for peace. He once stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Through his persistent work as a primary nonviolent activist and voice within the civil rights movement, he changed the United States of America as we know it, and he changed the lives of all those who would come after him in this country.

Without resorting to violence, while always advocating for peace, Martin Luther King, Jr. protested racial discrimination in both federal and state law. He succeeded in so many ways that he likely did not fully realize in his own lifetime. Tragically, he was assassinated in 1968, but his legacy of peace continues. In 1983, Ronald Reagan signed into law a holiday that would honor him on third Monday of every January. King’s strong stance for peace and equality meant that some states refused to honor this holiday or did so only under a different name, and it wasn’t until 2000 that it was officially observed in all states for the first time.

To further honor the legacy of peace and service to others that Martin Luther King, Jr. taught through his strong example, the day also also become known as the national Martin Luther King Day of Service. It encourages people from all walks of life to take the Monday holiday for King and use it as a day to serve others and make the world a better place. It’s a day of peace and action.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service website can help you get started with your plans for activism on this day. Also, simply think of the things you most want to see changed in the world. Find a way to peacefully protest what is wrong or volunteer to help make things right on a local level. That’s the best way to start.

The History of the Peace Sign

Peace symbols come in many forms, but the most recognized symbol of peace around the world is now the peace sign. Many groups now embrace it as a symbol for what they want to see in the world. It graces everything from children’s bedroom sets to chic shirts at shops like Be So Do So to buttons that activists don in protests like the Occupy movement. 
Many celebrities have donned peace signs for various occasions as well, including Miley Cyrus, Madonna, and Sarah Polley. In fact, Sarah Polley has remarked that her relationship with Disney soured when she refused to take off a peace sign at an event; studio executives thought it was too controversial, according to a Yahoo! Movies biography. 
The peace sign is formed from a combination of the semaphore signals for “D” and “N.” Those letters stood for nuclear disarmament. You see, the peace sign was designed by Gerald Holtom for the British nuclear disarmament movement, and his original drawing of it is on display at the Peace Museum in Bradford, England.
In 1958, the first peace badge was formed from ceramic for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, an anti-nuclear organization that still works for peace today. It was worn for a march from Trafalgar Square in London, England, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston, England. 
This symbol went on to become the unofficial, frequently used badge of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament through the years. Since it wasn’t patented or copyrighted by its designer, the symbol was able to spread to other groups and activists until it was eventually used in a mainstream way to symbolize the overall anti-war movement. 
Today, it means many things to many people. It mostly stands for people’s beliefs in peace on earth and a peace we can all make happen if we try hard enough and come together. 

Music of Peace


Sometimes music can help heal or reveal things that we need to understand. Sometimes it can inspire us to continue on with what we believe in. Songs that celebrate peace can remind us that hope for a peaceful world in which we live in harmony with one another really is quite possible. They can help keep us going when your paths as activist become filled with too many challenges or naysayers. Listen to some of these songs for a little inspiration.
“Imagine” by John Lennon must inevitably be mentioned. The anniversary of his death was this past week, December 8, but his message of peace has long lived on. This song unforgettably asks, “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” Also, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Knowing that you’re not the only one wishing and working for peace can be very strength-building. 
“Let There Be Peace on Earth” is a song often played at the holidays. It’s performed by Vince Gill and his daughter, Jenny. The song’s message is one of truth, beautifully pointing out that peace on earth really begins with peace within each and every one of us. 
“Where Is The Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas is a song from their third album, “Elephunk.” It’s an exuberant tune that really looks at the modern world and what it means to live in love and peace, as well as how to set an example for those who are growing up in a changing world.
These are just a few of the dozens of songs that can help inspire peace. Be sure to make your own peace playlist to inspire you when the going gets rough or just to enjoy and celebrate the peace that work toward.

How to Live for Peace in Our Everyday Life Choices

Sometimes we think of activists for peace as those people who dedicate their entire lives to the cause. However, there are some simple choices that every single person can make each day to stand up for peace and change the world in small and big ways.
One way to stand up for peace is in your food choices. Adopting a non-violent, vegetarian diet is one way to save almost 100 lives each year. When we stop to reflect upon the philosophy of peace and non-violence, it becomes clear that the merciless slaughter of animals is in direct contradiction to the belief in a peaceful co-existence with others in the world. Eating a decaying corpse as part of a peaceful dinner just doesn’t make sense when you really think about it. If cutting out all meat at much seems too much, start with a species at a time until you are vegetarian. It’s likely that, simply imagining that sweet face and will to live of a cow, pig or chicken will have you thinking twice before wanting to much on it. 
Better yet, consider adopting a vegan diet. It’s easier than you think. In this day and age, there are vegan versions of pepperoni pizza, any imaginable type of ice cream, yogurt, desserts of all kinds, and even barbecue faux ribs.
It’s also important to speak up when you see an injustice. If more teachers and adults stood up to the kids they see bullying others, there just might be fewer suicides from overwhelmed and bullied kids, a tragically all too frequent occurrence in recent years. 
Yes, sometimes being confrontational is the only way to create peace when people are doing wrong. There’s a difference between standing up to someone verbally and getting violent. The way to peace is education and discord, as well as taking action, so let someone know when they are doing something that hurts others. You may be seen as annoying, but it’s better that than someone who sits by and watches others get hurt. If you see an adult hitting a kid, call protective services; also, talk to the person about why it’s wrong. 

The Peace Arch - A Symbol Of Peace Between the Canada and the US

The Peace Arch is a beautiful 67 foot tall monument that straddles the border of Canada and the United States, half in each country. The flags of both countries wave proudly from the top of the monument and you can walk through the arch. The arch itself is designed to be a symbol of enduring peace between the two countries and the park surrounding it is the center of festivals devoted to peace and international understanding.


Half of the peace arch is located in Surrey Canada and the other half in Blaine Washington which are both beautiful peaceful communities in their own right. The park on the Canadian side is called the Peace Arch Provincial Park and on the United States side it is called the Peace Arch State Park but really the way they come together they are like one big continuous park and people can walk between them.

The park hosts many special events throughout the year including a well recognized international sculpture contest and exhibition. It is well worth a visit to the peace park just to see these amazing statues which often have a peace theme but not always. There are also many outdoor concerts, peace festivals, and guest lecturers as well as rallies when the symbolism is appropriate. Nearby is the busiest border crossing on the west side of the continent and it has remain open continually since the monument was erected in 1921 which also speaks well to the peace between Canada and the United States.

Conflict Minerals Bill Passes in California!

Many people don’t know that conflict minerals—the types of minerals that fund genocide and civil war within countries like Congo and Sudan, and are usually produced from slave labor—are in most of our electronics. If they knew, would they stop buying such electronics? I doubt it, but it’s still important for everyone to know about. Now, if they outlawed making these products with the minerals, we’d be onto something…

Most states in America are largely ignoring conflict minerals; in fact, many jewelers continue to sell conflict diamonds without batting an eye. But in California, that changed last month when the state agreed to pass a bill to stop companies from partnering with other companies that do business with conflict mineral providers as well as any armed groups in Congo, period. This historic piece of legislation will hopefully set the stage for many other states to follow suit—and they will, of course, if we put the pressure on them to do so.

It’s easy. We’re not asking that they stop selling electronics (though it’s clear that electronics companies are selling products way too frequently, with unnecessary updates and planned obsolescence in order to make us continue buying crap we don’t need) or even to buy 100% sustainable goods (though we should make such a demand!); we are simply asking that they not do business with the armed soldiers in the Congo who are kidnapping children and using them as soldiers, keeping human slaves to work in their mines until they die, and systematically raping women as a weapon of war so frequently that it is simply to be expected.  And frankly, if they want to do business with such people and support these heinous acts against humanity, do we really want to give them our business?

Click here to take the Conflict Minerals Pledge and let businesses know that you will not give them one cent until they agree to stop dealing with conflict mineral dealers. You can also look up what items contain conflict minerals—from cell phones to laptops to digital cameras—and make sure that you know where and from whom you are buying. You can call manufacturers directly and ask about where their materials came from. Gold and tungsten, or Wolframite, are frequent minerals mined in war zones, as are Cassiterite and Coltan, or Columbite-tantalite. Specifically ask about these ingredients if a person decides to give you the run around.