The Vietnam War shaped my life in powerful ways. I was politically conservative when I entered college in the fall of 1965. As the daughter of an Air Force pilot I was unaccustomed to questioning authority. I believed what I was told.
I was sitting in front of the mirror in my dorm room one evening in 1966, listening to the radio as I cut my hair. I had just finished sealing an envelope I was sending to my dad in Udorn, Thailand; he was flying rescue helicopters in Vietnam. As I listened to the radio, I heard a member of Congress angrily and loudly reply to a reporter’s question about the Vietnam War, “We are not in Thailand. We are not in Thailand.” This was the beginning of my questioning of authority.
I was also influenced by what was happening to the boys of my generation. There was a military draft, which meant that a young man’s name had a number associated with it, the lower the number the higher the likelihood of being called. When someone’s number was called, he went down to the Draft Board for an examination. It was customary for my friends to pretend to be either injured, gay or insane in order to fail the exam. When they were successful, we would have a big party.
What was different during the Vietnam War was that the news coverage was graphic in its depiction of the war. We saw the war every night on the nightly news as the count of the dead was announced. We saw the body bags with our friends in them. We were able to take the war seriously as a society because it was taken seriously by the media.
We took to meeting in parks and walking down the streets together chanting anti-war and peace slogans. What started as spontaneous collective expressions of rage and powerlessness became demonstrations. Eventually there was tear gas and then police in full-riot gear; the demonstrations quickly became dangerous. It was Kent State that turned most of my friends and me toward peace. When my peers, students like my friends and me, were killed by National Guard troops, we all started talking about going back to the land.
I concluded that if I were serious about peace I should start at the beginning, start with making peace with my family of origin, so I moved to New Mexico. When I had my own family, I decided to raise my children non-violently and learned how to talk from my own feelings. I did not punish my children, but rather relied on their natural need to cooperate.
As a mother, I have been challenged to find more inner peace, to hear a more gentle inner dialogue and to seek solace through meditation, chanting and prayer. Being more peaceful helps me to be the mother I want to be and is the work of a lifetime.
Because of my history, I am especially taken by Jeremy Gilley, who founded Peace One Day in 1999, a campaign to establish an annual day of ceasefire and non-violence. In 2001, the United Nations unanimously adopted September 21st as an international day of peace.
Gilley is an actor and filmmaker who documented his efforts to create Peace Day in two inspiring films. He encourages others to become involved by meeting up with other people on this day, playing a sport for peace, or dancing for peace. The website has many other examples of what people all over the world have done on this day of peace as well as resources for schools and communities.
Peace Day is a day for a kind inner dialogue, a day to stay steadfast with ourselves. On Peace Day we can choose non-violent communication with our children and stay peaceful with other people in our lives or on our paths. It is a day free of bullying, a day free of verbal abuse, a day free of domestic violence. On Peace Day, soldiers can catch their breath.
Striving for peace for one day makes it easier every other day. And doing it together reminds us that we are a world community that can choose peace instead of violence.