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Ending U.S. War by Honoring Americans Who Work for Peace

Michael D. Knox, PhD

 

Preface

I travel frequently and have seen the many monuments to soldiers and to wars that occupy our city squares and parks. In the summer of 2005 my son James and I visited Washington, DC after he finished his first year of college. We made the standard tour of the city, visiting museums, the White House, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the newly dedicated National World War II Memorial. These memorials exist to reinforce the notion that war efforts or activities are highly valued and rewarded by our society. In this and other visits to the National Mall, I encountered dozens of war veterans discussing their combat experiences with their children, grandchildren, and other relatives and friends. I imagine that most of the listeners are proud of the speaker’s military record and some view the war veteran as a role model.

Suddenly, with my son present, I realized that all of my own personal memories and stories in this realm were of antiwar activities. I was immediately struck by the fact that there are no national monuments here to convey a message that our society also values peace and recognizes those who took action to oppose one or more U.S. wars. There is no public validation of antiwar activities and no memorial to serve as a catalyst for discussion regarding courageous peace efforts by Americans over the past centuries. This realization led to the organization of the US Peace Memorial Foundation in 2005 and my retirement in 2011 so that I could devote the remainder of my life to creating this monument, initially online and later as a physical structure in our nation’s capital. 

It is time to dedicate a national monument to peace and those who work for it. Our society should be as proud of those who strive for alternatives to war as it is of those who fight wars. Demonstrating this national pride in some tangible way may encourage others to explore peace advocacy during times when only the voices of war are being heard. By presenting the antiwar sentiments of many American leaders—views that history has often ignored—and by documenting contemporary U.S. antiwar activism, the US Peace Memorial will send a clear message to our citizens that advocating for peaceful solutions to international problems and opposing war are honorable and socially acceptable activities in our democracy. 

War is part of our culture. Because it has historically featured both personal and collective acts of valor and sacrifice amidst hellish violence and tragedy, it is understandable that memorials are erected to acknowledge war’s momentous impacts and honor the participants’ dedication to causes that were deemed to be in our national interests. In this sense, war memorials honor the ultimate inability to resolve conflict and differences through nonviolent means. These memorials recognize the horrific, deadly, and sometimes heroic results of that failure, results that are starkly tangible.

By contrast, Americans who oppose war(s) and who advocate instead for alternate, nonviolent solutions to conflict can and do at times help to prevent or end wars. It could be said they engage in prevention, creating life-saving but non-tangible results. Unlike wars, they do not create the kind of visceral and emotional foundation on which war memorials are instinctively built. A similar dynamic happens in healthcare where disease prevention (which saves many more lives) is poorly funded and often unrecognized, whereas medicine and surgery that have a tangible life-saving impact on people and their families is gratefully acknowledged and well-funded.

Fortunately, the horror and tragedy that mark war are not usually components of working for peace. Yet like war, peace advocacy does include dedication to cause, bravery, serving honorably, and making personal sacrifices, such as being shunned and vilified, giving up selected benefits, putting oneself on the line in communities and in society, and even being arrested and jailed for antiwar actions. The honor that antiwar activists merit is long overdue. So too is a healthy respect for the cause of peacemaking.

In April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. condemned U.S. militarism, referring to “a society gone mad on war.” He labeled the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Nothing has changed since then, except for the focus of our unbridled and persistent aggression. As usual, we unleash the horror of our war-making mostly towards persons already living in devasting poverty.

The need to end our culture of war is more urgent than ever. In 2019 the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the historic Iran nuclear deal and Congress passed the largest war budget ever in the history of United States, giving the military $738 billion for the 2020 fiscal year. We saw the release of the Afghanistan Papers, which make it clear how much our government lies to us, just as it did when we waged war against the people of Vietnam. A December 2019 State Department report found that the U.S. is responsible for 79 percent of the global arms trade, or an average of $143 billion annually, with the United States exporting four times more arms around the globe than the next nine countries combined. As 2019 ended, President Donald Trump signed a bill establishing the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the military. During the signing ceremony he said, “Space is the world’s newest war-fighting domain.” As 2020 began, the president brought the country to the brink of war with Iran, a country that we have attempted to dominate during most of my lifetime. Today we continue to kill, maim, and make refugees of innocent poor people in Africa and the Middle East and to take hostile actions against Latin American countries.

The inadequacies of our health and public health systems and the shortages of equipment, supplies, and hospital beds during the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the fact that military related activities are the highest priority of our government. That’s where the tax dollars go and that’s where the resources are; spread around the world to intimidate and do harm, rather than good.

In a culture that funds and esteems war-making, the overdue respect for peacemaking must be taught and modeled. A national monument to peacemakers can help do that. It can change our cultural mindset so that it will no longer be acceptable to label those who speak out against a U.S. war as un-American, antimilitary, traitorous, or unpatriotic. Rather, they will be recognized for their dedication to a noble cause. The US Peace Memorial Foundation is providing education about living antiwar activists and thoughts about our nation’s long history of brave citizens and leaders who have actively opposed U.S. wars. The memorial will help decrease the social barriers that Americans must overcome before they publicly oppose a war. This is crucial to world peace, because active public opposition might be the only sane way to end U.S. war and militarism. If we as Americans don’t do it, the rest of the world might take action. The results of another world war, with current technology, are unthinkable.

We hope that you will join us as a Founding Member.  Founding Members are listed on our website www.uspeacememorial.org/Donors.htm, in our forthcoming book, and eventually at the National Monument we will build in Washington, DC.

 

US Peace Memorial Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity.

Donations to the Foundation are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.

 

Florida registration #: CH20094.  A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE FLORIDA DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE.  REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

 

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