This column was published on UPI’s Religion and Spirituality Forum on April 30, 2007
On the Saturday before Palm Sunday this year I was responsible for driving a Pulitzer Prize winning, New York Times Best Selling, outspoken critic of the war in Iraq from San Francisco to a church in Palo Alto where the author was to speak to a crowd of like-minded peaceniks. After a comedy of errors that included me getting lost in China Town, stuck between some lion dancers and group of Fulong Gong protestors, the famous author and I arrived twenty minutes late to the gathering on the Mid Peninsula.
And as we walked into the church’s sanctuary, which was filled to capacity with three hundred or more activists that day, I noticed something about the anti-war movement. At thirty-eight, I was the youngest person in the room, and it’s always like that when I participate in anti-war activities. If anyone at the march or demonstration or vigil is younger than me, chances are I’m pushing her in a stroller.
What’s wonderful about the age of the peace activists I know is that the strongest voices protesting the war in Iraq speak with wisdom gained from the experience of having been active in anti-war movements since before I was born. These are the people who wore “make love not war” tee shirts in the sixties. In the seventies they put “you can’t hug your children with nuclear arms” bumper stickers on their used Volvos. In the eighties they discovered Birkenstocks and were active in opposing America’s proxy wars in Central America. In the nineties they opposed the first Gulf war, they cheered the demise of Apartheid, and they championed the Palestinian cause. Now they’re focusing their energies on bringing American troops home from Iraq.
I am glad the wisdom of my elders is leading America’s efforts to end a foolhardy war in Mesopotamia—Lord knows we need the voice of experience—but I’m worried about who will stand up for peace the next time our nation sends its sons and daughters off to fight an un-winnable war in some exotic locale. If I’m the face of youth among peaceniks, then the cause of peace will be lonely work by the time I am my parents’ age.
Rumor has it that there are a lot of younger people who are passionate about peacemaking, and I’d like for them to meet and learn from my friends who are veterans of the peace movement. Wisdom and knowledge are perishable if they are not passed on from one generation to the next.
Years ago, back when there was such a thing, I visited the Soviet Union, and while I was there I went to several churches. Seven decades of communism had been hard on the congregations, and most of the worshipers I met were elderly, many stooped from a lifetime of suffering; but alongside those aging congregants were a significant number of grandchildren, running between our legs as we stood in the presence of ancient icons. It was hopeful, seeing those grandparents worship with members of a younger generation, a promise that Christianity would endure Soviet repression.
I trust that the peace movement in the United States can similarly endure the warmongering that has so characterized the American soul of late, but in order for the cause of peace to thrive, there must be an intergenerational conversation in which the wisdom of experience is joined with the energy of youth.