Des Moines Register 03-17-07 Make monuments to show: Blessed are the peacemakers

Des Moines Register
Make monuments to show: Blessed are the peacemakers
Washington, D.C., is one of the most popular tourist destinations not only within
the United States but also internationally. Upon leaving the capital and returning
home, many visitors are somehow forever transformed.
I view the Washington experience as representing an important and inspiring, yet
limited and narrow vision of our national history and collective consciousness.
First, while our monuments, statues and memorials honor our country's luminous
heroes, an extraordinarily few pay tribute to our nation's women and persons of
And second, the gleaming monuments and memorials, though certainly stirring,
primarily give testament to our nation's wars and honor presidents who served
during wartime or achieved prominence in war. Therefore, the symbolic and
literal narrative of our nation's capital speaks only part of our collective story.
The fulcrum on which the foundation of this narrative rests represents an
important though incomplete story, primarily about white male leaders, with
armed conflict as the organizing principle.
One exception is a small, nameless, nondescript and relatively unknown statue
representing "Peace," located near the Capitol. Otherwise, where are our
tributes, our monuments, our memorials to peace and to the peacemakers?
Where are our memorials and monuments to the diplomats and the mediators; to
those working in conflict resolution; to the individuals of conscience who refuse to
give over their minds, souls and bodies to armed conflict; to the practitioners of
non-violent resistance in the face of tyranny and oppression; to the anti-war
activists who strive to educate their peers, citizenry, and, yes, their government
about the perils of unjustified and unjust armed conflict and incursions into lands
not our own?
Individuals and groups who stand up and put their lives on the line to defend the
country from very real threats to our national security, as do those in our nation's
military, are true patriots. But true patriots are also those who speak out, stand
up and challenge our governmental leaders by advocating for justice, freedom
and liberty through peaceful means.
As one looks over the history of humanity, it is apparent that tyranny, at times,
could be countered only through the raising of arms. On numerous occasions,
however, diplomacy has been successful. At other times, it should have been
used more extensively before rushing to war. I therefore find it unacceptable
when one's patriotism and love of country are called into question when one
advocates for peaceful means of conflict resolution or works to create conditions
and understanding that ultimately make war less likely.
First, I propose that Congress pass a bipartisan resolution to increase the
number of statues and memorials to honor this country's female heroes and
heroes of color. Second, I call on Congress to set aside a parcel of prime land on
the National Mall in Washington for installation of a highly visible Monument to
Peace and Peacemakers. I urge residents and business leaders throughout the
country to donate financial and tactical support to coordinate the design and
Third, I ask local communities to develop residents' councils to work toward
establishing regional and local Monuments to Peace and Peacemakers. The
national, regional and local monuments could be connected to institutions of
research and learning, which will serve as archives and teaching centers for
ourselves and generations yet to come.
We are once again a divided nation: politically, philosophically, economically and
spiritually. The theme of values has dominated recent public discourse. The
promotion of peace should rank as one of the highest values, deserving our
immediate and sustained attention. The creation of Monuments to Peace and
Peacemakers can help us heal the divisions, bridge the gaps in our national
consciousness and bring us together.
It is time to let the healing begin.
WARREN J. BLUMENFELD is assistant professor of multicultural and
international curriculum studies at Iowa State University.