This is a post I have really been looking forward to writing ever since I started my blog, because it’s about who I really am, what I stand for, and why I decided to start a blog.

I work for a non-profit that helps violence survivors and part of our goal is to educate and raise awareness to help our community to prevent violence. In my spare time, I am a peace activist, as much as I have time to be while playing a very active role in the lives of my grandchildren. I wouldn’t have any of this any other way!

Every Friday evening, a small group of us stands peace vigil in our small, rural town… often only two of us, but that’s okay. We stand as a human reminder that yes, there’s still a war going on, several in fact, and they need to stop. We stand for the people who can’t: the troops who are sent far from their families to fight in a battle that isn’t theirs, for those who won’t come home (on all sides of the battle; the “enemy” has family too), and for those living in the war zones. There are other reasons why we stand; I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now, and my friend Linda has been standing since the very beginning of the war, shortly after 9/11. Maybe the biggest reason is the need to, literally, take a stand for peace.

When I started, a couple of years ago, I noticed that we were frequently flipped off, screamed at, etc., by passers-by. But I felt very passionate about why I stood and those people only made me stronger. Over the past several months, I have experienced a change in attitude. More people honk, and give us thumbs up and other positive feedback, than ever before, and the rude gestures and remarks are fewer and further between. I think people are beginning to get as fed up as we are.

As time went by, I decided that reading about peace and standing vigil was nowhere near enough. I started using my Facebook page to promote peace. It started with a month-long effort to post a song about peace each day; this ended up going on for several months, at which point, I switched to posting a peace/anti-war quote each day. I continue to do this daily.

I have become much more outspoken than I used to be; to be honest, I can’t NOT be outspoken about a life or death issue that impacts every human on earth. I have not shied away from posting videos and photos showing the real devastation of war that network TV doesn’t want the public to see. I have promoted sites and efforts to resist the military draft, because our young people deserve better than that.

It takes more than the bombing to stop to create peace, although that’s a start. I see peace as a very holistic thing. Peace, like violence, can occur on all levels. Individual peace leads to more peaceful interpersonal relationships. It’s hard to be hateful and angry at others when you are happy with yourself. Once you reach the point of not carrying that anger and fear and malcontent, it’s much easier to create peace on a larger level. An example is speaking out against racism, and in favor of more peaceful means of communication. Violence becomes unthinkable and abhorrent. All the things that we as humans fight about seem petty and childish. On a global level, I really do believe that peace can be achieved. But it starts within each of us to care enough to talk about it.

Peace is about so much more than peace signs and hippies and tie-dye… it’s a way of life. It’s not wishful thinking; it’s faith in action. It isn’t always easy. It means choosing non-violence, no matter how justified violence may seem. It means respecting people, even if they are being disrespectful. It means being open to new ways to handle conflict that respect the person and the situation, then teaching it to our children and to others. Finding the good in someone you are angry with is a victory, not a weakness. And it means understanding the concept of karma: that revenge is pointless, because the person who hurt you has already created bad energy and you don’t need to go and create it too. It means listening, mediating, negotiating, and putting pride aside. These are values that traditionally have not been valued in our society, but I believe that, like many things, things are starting to change. Each generation seems to inch its way a little closer. The struggle for equality and civil rights didn’t begin or end in the 60’s; it’s on a continuum, and old, intolerant beliefs continue to be challenged and dismantled. I believe this is growing, as younger generations see the futility and stupidity in the previous oppressive behaviors.

Obviously, none of us are perfect, and we all fall short, but these are my goals in my daily life. Peace is hard work. But it can be habit-forming, because it feels good to live with purpose. We do each make a difference, you know. It’s just a matter of what kind of difference we make.

Peace can be created consciously. So how do we work more effectively toward world peace? I believe the keys are education and non-judgment. That takes effort, and it means having an open mind and doing research. If I hear something inflammatory about a particular group of people, I tend to distrust it immediately. After all, are you the same as every other person of your skin color, gender, religion, etc.? Of course not, and nobody else is all the same either. Whenever I hear stereotyping, I discount it, because I don’t believe in stereotyping. The best weapon against hateful thinking is facts. When I hear something that sounds like hate propaganda, I research it and refute it with facts. Needless to say, not everyone enjoys being corrected when they are trying to justify hateful beliefs, but I think it’s important to prevent the spread of misinformation. This is especially true when hateful stereotyping has led to violence, such as the racial profiling and hate crimes against people of Middle Eastern descent after 9/11. We can do better than this.

Another way to promote peace is by talking to combat veterans, especially in these most recent wars. Hear the truth, instead of the prime-time television pablum you have been fed. Realize that our money is being used to prop up the false concept of American exceptionalism, which essentially means, “we are Americans so we are better than you.” This kind of concept does not create peace. It causes resentment, and rightfully so. We are not better, and we are all just human. I am always baffled by people who refer to themselves as Christians who ascribe to this type of thinking… I don’t think Christ (the Prince of Peace) would be pleased with this arrogance.

This is also part of the reason I refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag. While others recite the verse they are told to recite, I stand with my hand over my heart and silently pray. I pray for those innocents we have killed, I pray for the American soldiers needlessly in harm’s way, and I pray for forgiveness of our nation’s warlike ways. First of all, I have a hard time picturing Christ pledging his allegiance to ANY flag, and I do try to live my life by those principles. I believe Christ saw the big picture, and was not caught up in nationalism. I cannot in good conscious be for global peace while supporting this thinking. I support my nation and those in it, just like I support other humans, but I will not support the drone strikes, the land mines, the obscenely huge war budget, the signing of the NDAA, the invasion and occupation of other countries under false pretenses, and the boosting of despotic regimes that has been carried out under this flag with my tax dollars. It makes me ashamed.

Needless to say, some have called me unpatriotic. I’d like to differentiate between patriotism and nationalism. Nationalism doesn’t question anything; it pledges blind allegiance, on the assumption that the government will do what is right. Patriotism wants what is actually best for the people. It wants justice, and fair laws, and equal rights. Nationalism cares about being number one. Patriotism means wanting to represent your country with pride by being the kind of person your country can be proud of. Therefore, I consider myself deeply patriotic. I value ALL human lives, not just American lives… kind of like Jesus would do.

If you are anything like me this way, and are being blasted as unpatriotic, take comfort in the fact that you are in prestigious company: Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, many of the Founding Fathers, Howard Zinn, Albert Schweitzer, Ralph Waldo Emerson… well, you get the idea, and I’m sure you can think of many of your own. In other words, people who didn’t settle for the status quo. It’s called thinking for yourself, and that’s a good thing.

I decided a while back I really wanted to write a book about war and privilege. It occurred to me that with my busy schedule, that would be a Herculean project at best. I don’t have the time to do the research to complete it in any reasonable time period. I suddenly realized that a blog would promote peace in a meaningful way, and in doable chunks. Best of all, it can morph and change and stay caught up with current events, unlike a book. I was hooked!

As soon as I decided to write a blog, ideas started to fly into my head, except for what to call it. A couple of days later, I was standing on the corner at my Friday night vigil when the phrase “Peace Out Loud” came into my head. It was perfect! After all, for peace to be effective, it needs to be spoken about, practiced mindfully, and lived out loud.

My goal with this blog is for every post to be in some way connected to peace. It may be personal peace, it may be world peace, or anything in between. Some of it may be very political, but it’s impossible to talk about peace without talking about such realities. Peace isn’t some lofty ideal to me, it’s a practical matter, which requires practical discussion about both the spiritual and the worldly.

At the end of the day, I always come back to myself and examine how I have behaved. Some days I get an “A,” and some days an “F.” We’re all a work in progress. Like a novice gardener, I’m starting with a small plot and dreaming big. Why not? I may be dreaming big and starting small, but I’m starting, and I’m learning, and that’s what counts. I’ll never be Gandhi, but it doesn’t matter. We only get a few decades on this planet to do what needs to be done, and my intention is to grow and learn while I’m here, and leave it nicer than when I came.

I am humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas. A big thank you to everyone who reads my blog, and I always welcome your feedback, thoughts, ideas, and dreams. Thank you for coming to visit, and I wish you peace!