Monday, September 21st, is the United Nation’s 27th annual attempt to promote an International Day of Peace. We are asked to pause and reflect. Or perhaps set aside our personal or political anger. To cease fire. For one day.
We are asked to inspire our students to celebrate this day of peace in their own way. And perhaps we should. Maybe the adults ought to all just chill for 24 hours. Maybe we just take a break from spewing venomous hate speech at Town Hall Meetings or calling the President a fascist or the second coming of Pol Pot. Maybe we ought to quit shouting across the great divide: “You Liar!” You racist!
Maybe on International Peace Day we stay in our seats when we might otherwise rush the stage and yank the microphone out of some 19-year old entertainer’s hands to promote Beyonce. Maybe we accept the line judge’s call instead of threatening to shove the “f-ing tennis ball down her throat”. Maybe we disarm. Maybe we turn down the volume on our talk radio stations. Maybe we have a civil discussion without a deer rifle slung over our shoulder.
Maybe we make this International Day of Peace about our kids. Before someone gets hurt.
Last week the House Speaker warned that the climate of hatred towards the President is starting to feel very much like that of San Francisco in the late 70’s– when Dan White’s voices urged him to murder city councilman Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist. She was immediately vilified. Her political adversaries accused her of encouraging Americans to assassinate the President. But all week long cable news pundits were saying the same thing: that we are witnessing a zeitgeist with potentially frightening consequences if some nut gets too close to those in power who were elected by the “people”.
We’ve been here before. We heard Bobby Kennedy’s powerful speech on the Mindless Menace of Violence in America... just before he too became a victim of the mindless menace of violence in America.
On this International Day of Peace, a ceasefire in Afghanistan and Africa and Iraq and the West Bank and in the border towns of Juarez and Tijuana would be a blessing.
But I’ll settle for a day in which our children are permitted a moment to lend their voices to the tumult– their prayers for peace.
So at El Milagro we will commemorate this Day of Peace. And I’m sure we’ll hear about it. We’ll hear that we should be using our instructional time more wisely and preparing our kids for the standardized tests. Or that we are putting ideas into their heads. Or we are teaching them to be soft. Or to be socialists.
But the 7th and 8th grade students in Mr. Medina’s class have already made 1000 origami cranes and inscribed them with a wish for peace. They will wear white to signify their solidarity. And they will lend their voices by vowing to keep a day of silence.
Each student will carry a Pledge Card that says:
•Today I am silent.
•Today I am silent… reflecting on peace within myself.
•Today I am silent… reflecting on peace within my family, my school, my community, and the world.
•Today I will walk in silence with my classmates and we will stand for peace.
•Today I am silent… for the last time!
•From this day forward, I will raise my voice in defense of others. I will be an advocate for peace, non-violence, and justice for all people.
By Tuesday the International Day of Peace will be over and we will not likely have effected any real change in the world. At least for now.
There are still 1000 origami cranes. The wishes they bear will be released to the universe. The prayers they carry will have come from our children.