Nothing. There’s nothing funny about peace, love and understanding – though it seems that we don’t take them very seriously. I’m not saying that we don’t give them value. We do, we value peace and love and understanding in books and films and television shows, love songs and poems and theater and art and even church, sometimes. [I was brought up Catholic, so while I was constantly being reminded to love my neighbor the church leaders were busy condemning homosexuals and any woman who dared even considering abortion.] But do we take peace, love and understanding seriously? Do we treat it not only as something worthy to put on a poster, but something to aspire to? Do we teach our children, do we encourage ourselves, to put it into practice?
I don’t think we do. Not enough, at least. And I think it’s something that we need. I think it’s something we should be reminded of on a daily basis. Because we do think peace and love and understanding are valuable. Quite valuable. Songs and poems and Hollywood movies aside – we revere the likes of Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King. They are heroes, icons, people to learn from, examples of lives to aspire to. And I know I’m simplifying all of this, but these people (and many others like them) are so remembered because they embodied peace and love and understanding. In a world of violence they preached and practiced non-violence. Surrounded by enemies, they not only sought to understand them but they loved them. It is right and good that we value these amazing people and in so doing it is right and good that we celebrate their values. But we should also honor them and ourselves by following their lead. Each and every one of us. Each and every day.
I know it is hard. It’s extremely hard to embrace peace and love and understanding. It’s hard for me and my life is easy: I’m healthy; I live in the United States; I have a job (for now); and I’m a white male. And I’m trying. Yet despite these factors it is very hard for me to love those with no love for me. It is very hard for me to try to understand people with views and ideals contrary to mine. It is very hard for me to work towards peace when I want to fight, to argue, to prove my point, to show that I am right, when I meet with resistance from others. If it’s hard for me, how hard must it be for those that don’t have it easy: those who are oppressed, discriminated against, the victims of violence and poverty? How hard must it be for those people to live by these ideals?
There’s a video in heavy circulation of Malala Yousafzai being interviewed by Jon Stewart. She’s a 16 years old Pakistani woman who shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke out for women’s right to be educated. She lived. And she still fights. What does she think about peace, love and understanding? She tells Jon Stewart that we must not fight our enemies with violence, we must fight them with peace, dialogue and education. Wow. Wow. This is a 16 year old. This is a woman oppressed. This is a woman who was nearly killed. And yet, there it is: peace and love and understanding. And more. Is there any doubt why she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?
While watching the interview I couldn’t help but wonder if I was witnessing the early years of a future Mother Teresa or Dr. King or Gandhi. I hope that all forms of media will help us to see that this woman is a hero for all the right reasons and that we can and should strive to be more like her. I hope our children see that. I hope we all do. [I tried to embed the video here, alas my technical skills are lacking. Please click on “video” above and see for yourself.]
Please also check out the Malala Fund, an organization created to help girls in the developing world reach their true potential through education.