Message from the
Coordinator on the Recent Attacks
by Leah C. Wells*, September 2001
Now more than ever, teaching peace is of utmost
importance in our country. In the face of such terrible acts,
we should be teaching our students about nonviolent responses
to violence rather than the retributive and retaliatory acts which
are at the forefront of our national dialogue. Peacemaking is
a teachable skill, and one which takes commitment and discipline.
How can we expect to create peaceful homes, schools, communities
and nations if we do not explicitly train our students in the
ways of nonviolence?
In my nonviolence class during the past week, we
have been talking a lot about hot versus cold violence. Hot violence
is the violence which makes you shrink back in horror. The terrorist
attacks this week in New York and Washington, DC were examples
of hot violence. Cold violence, on the other hand, is the kind
that is more quiet and often legitimized by society. Examples
of cold violence, in my estimation, are the 25% of youths in America
who live in poverty, or the nearly 40,000 children who die every
day as a result of malnutrition and hunger.
We get so angry about hot violence. It makes us
indignant because it is in our faces. As long as we don't see
the violence, we are not motivated to take action. Why did we
not allocate an emergency $40 billion to alleviate the mass poverty
in our country, or to provide health care for the millions of
Americans without any? Or to provide salary increases for the
seriously underpaid teachers who deal daily with the effects of
family, community, school and institutional violence?
Cold violence is a tragedy, just as hot violence
is. Just because a child dies in quiet, and not in a fiery blast,
does not mean that the death is less significant and that the
child was any less special. We need to be teaching our young people
how to handle the violence they experience on a personal level
as well as the systemic violence which perpetuates inequality
and injustice all over the world.
Classes in peacemaking teach our young people that
hatred toward an entire people does not make the world a better
place. Classes in peacemaking teach our young people the scope
of their power and the importance of their voices. Classes in
peacemaking teach our young people that their lives are special
and that in the midst of mass-marketing strategies and consumerism,
that an authentic alternative exists. Classes in peacemaking are
the only real response to the many forms of violence to which
young people are exposed. If peace is what we want, peace is what
we should prepare for. Teaching peace lays the foundation for
a more fulfilling life.
*Leah C. Wells is Peace
Education Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.