Remembering Hiroshima and the Quest for Peace

August 6, 2015, will mark the 70th anniversary of the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I clearly remember two years ago when Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the 50,000 people who had gathered for a Peace Ceremony in memory of the event, that to hold the vision of world peace, “We must never forget the horrors of nuclear weapons and we must never repeat this tragedy that has been engraved into the history of mankind. As the only country to be victimized by an atomic bomb and experiencing its ravages, we have the noble responsibility to the human race and the future of the Earth to pass on the memories of this tragedy to the next generation.”

And while we have not used another nuclear weapon to kill, we continue to use bombs and guns and missiles to kill each other. I keep asking, “Why do my fellow human beings continue to think that killing is an answer to conflict? Why do people continue to kill their brothers and sisters?” Not a day goes by that I do not hear about another killing, whether it be a lone gunman, a militia or an entire army, I continue to be shocked and dismayed, feeling helpless and hopeless.

At times like this, I find hope and wisdom in the words of John F. Kennedy. I believe he was the last world leader who truly understood the importance and power of the individual. He recognized, honored and encouraged each person taking action and ownership of what happens in the world. You may ask – how does this relate to seemingly senseless killings? It relates because each and every one of us contributes to the consciousness of our communities, to the consciousness of our planet. Yes, we are all connected, and what I do makes a difference, what you do makes a difference, even though we may have absolutely no idea of how or why. In a June 1963, speech on disarmament at American University, JFK said, “Every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward – by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace.”

To me, these words are empowering, inspiring and hopeful. Can you imagine every person, every day, looking inward and examining her or his own attitude toward peace? Can you imagine in every interaction, if people got in touch with what was alive for them, how they could bring about a peaceful resolution to any conflict? If we can imagine it (and YES we can!), then we can create it.

JFK continued this idea in a speech to the UN. He said, “Peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people … let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.”

And so the question becomes, “What am I willing to do for peace?” Am I willing to raise my voice, to speak up for justice? Am I willing to be a model for nonviolence in my community? Not just rail against violence or injustice or inequity, not just give lip-service that killing one another is deplorable, but to stand for a nonviolent community, to stand for justice and respect and tolerance and equality, to take action for a nonviolent world. Folks, it’s the only way I know – to get off my butt and get involved, do my part (and I hope you will, too!) because I absolutely know peace begins with me!