[corp-focus] Respond to Violence: Teach Peace, Not War
Thu, 13 Sep 2001 18:59:51 -0400 (EDT)
Respond to Violence: Teach Peace, Not War
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Open the Washington Post to it's editorial pages, and war talk dominates.
Henry Kissinger: Destroy the Network.
Robert Kagan: We Must Fight This War.
Charles Krauthammer: To War, Not to Court.
William S. Cohen: American Holy War.
There is no column by Colman McCarthy talking peace.
>From 1969 to 1997, McCarthy wrote a column for the Washington Post. He was
let go because the column, he was told, wasn't making enough money for the
company. "The market has spoken," was the way Robert Kaiser, the managing
editor at the Post, put it at the time.
McCarthy is a pacifist. "I'm opposed to any kind of violence -- economic,
political, military, domestic."
But McCarthy is not surprised by the war talk coming from the Post. He has
just completed an analysis of 430 opinion pieces that ran in the
Washington Post in June, July and August 2001.
Of the 430 opinion pieces, 420 were written by right-wingers or centrists.
Only ten were written by columnists one might consider left.
Nor is he surprised by the initial response of the American people to
Tuesday's horrific attacks on innocent civilians. According to a
Washington Post/ABC News poll, nine of ten people supported taking
military action against the groups or nations
responsible for the attacks "even if it led to war."
"In the flush of emotions, that is the common reaction," McCarthy says.
"But is it a rational and sane reaction?"
So, how should we respond?
"We forgive you. Please forgive us."
Forgive us for what?
"Please forgive us for being the most violent government on earth,"
McCarthy says. "Martin Luther King said this on April 4, 1967 at Riverside
Church in New York. He said 'my government is the world's leading purveyor
What should Bush do?
"He should say that the United States will no longer be the world's
largest seller of weapons, that we will begin to decrease our
extravagantly wasteful military budget, which runs now at about $9,000 a
What will Bush do?
"Within the week, we will be bombing somebody somewhere," McCarthy says.
"This is what his father did, this is what Clinton did."
"In the past 20 years, we have bombed Libya, Grenada, Panama, Somalia,
Haiti, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Yugoslavia. There are two things
about those countries -- all are poor countries, and the majority are
people of dark colored skin."
Are you saying that we should just turn the other cheek?
"No, that's passivity," McCarthy says. "Pacifism is not passivity.
Pacifism is direct action, direct resistance, refusing to cooperate with
violence. That takes a lot of bravery. It takes much more courage than to
use a gun or drop a bomb."
Since leaving the Post, McCarthy has dedicated his life to teaching peace.
He has created the Center for Teaching Peace, which he runs out of his
home in Northwest Washington. He teaches peace and non-violence at six
area universities and at a number of public secondary and high schools.
But he's up against a system that systematically teaches violence -- from
that all pervasive teacher of children -- television -- to the President
of the United States.
"In 1999, the day after the Columbine shootings, Bill Clinton went to a
high school in Alexandria, Virginia and gave a speech to the school's Peer
Mediation Club," McCarthy says. "Clinton said 'we must teach our children
to express their anger and resolve their conflicts with words not
"It was a great speech, but he went back that same night and ordered up
the most intense bombing of Belgrade since that war began four weeks
Message to children: kid's violence is bad, but America's violence is
McCarthy says we should teach our children forgiveness, not to demonize
people who have a grievance.
"When you hit your child, or beat up the person you are living with, you
are saying -- 'I want you to change the way you think or behave and I'm
going to use physical force to make you change your way or your mind,'" he
"In fact, violence is rarely effective. If violence was effective, we
would have had a peaceful planet eons ago."
How to break the cycle of violence?
"The same way you break the cycle of ignorance -- educate people,"
"Kids walk in the school with no idea that two plus two equals four. They
are ignorant. We repeat over and over -- Billy, two plus two equals four.
And Billy leaves school knowing two plus two equals four. But he doesn't
leave school knowing that an eye for an eye means we all go blind."
"We have about 50 million students in this country," McCarthy says.
"Nearly all of those are going to graduate absolutely unaware of the
philosophy of Gandhi, King, Dorothy Day, Howard Zinn, or A.J. Muste."
When he speaks before college audiences, McCarthy holds up a $100 dollar
bill and says "I'll give this to anybody in the audience who can identify
these next six people -- Who was Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and Paul
Revere? All hands go up on all three."
"Then I ask -- Who was Jeanette Rankin (first women member of Congress,
voted against World War I and World War II, said 'you can no more win a
war than win an earthquake,' Dorothy Day (co-founder of the Catholic
Worker movement), Ginetta Sagan (founder of Amnesty USA)."
"The last three are women peacemakers. The first three are all male
peacebreakers. The kids know the militarists. They don't know the
He hasn't lost his $100 bill yet to a student.
Of the 3,100 colleges and universities in the country, only about 70 have
degree programs in peace studies and most are underfunded.
Instead of bombing, we should start teaching peace.
"We are graduating students as peace illiterates who have only heard of
the side of violence," McCarthy laments. "If we don't teach our children
peace, somebody else will teach them violence."
[The Center for Teaching Peace has produced two text books, Solutions to
Violence and Strength Through Peace, both edited by Colman McCarthy. Each
book contains 90 essays by the world's great theorists and practitioners
of non-violence. ($25 each). To contact Colman McCarthy, write to: Center
for Teaching Peace, 4501 Van Ness Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016
Phone: (202) 537-1372]
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based
Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The
Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage Press, 1999).
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman