Make Memorial Day About Peace

We live in a war culture. Let’s change it to a peace culture.

The rumble of 20,000 motorcycles roars up the highway to an annual festival across the mountains. It’s Memorial Day Weekend. The dual anthems of US militarism and consumerism are playing across the country. Meanwhile, I’ve got the volume turned up on a different sort of tune: peace. 

As I gathered stories for Nonviolence News this week, I noticed a recurring theme of compassion under fire, and people who strive for peace amidst war. An Idaho schoolteacher disarmed a school shooter and hugged her until help arrived. A soldier hijacked a school bus and the kids asked him so many questions, he let them leave the bus. Farmers in Colombia carved out a peace village in the midst of civil war. The women of Liberia blended civil resistance and peacebuilding to end the Second Liberian Civil War. In West Papua, civil society is protesting against months of violence in the latest flare-up of the longstanding conflict between government forces and pro-independence insurgents. In Israel, thousands of Jews and Arabs marched to demand a lasting peace with Palestinians. (Find Nonviolence News here.)

I’m impressed by these stories. I’m awed by how people can dredge up empathy even amidst violence, or how they find they courage to call for peace when everyone around them is barreling deeper into war. There are a surprising number of them. I’ve been finding these as I co-facilitate a course on “Disarming Conversations, Connecting Across Divides” and listening to stories about how people who virulently dislike each other find their common humanity. The work of peace is hard and challenging, but when we remember that the alternative is war and violence, it suddenly seems worth it. 

I always dream of a culture of peace, one where Hollywood makes movies about people who stop wars rather than win them. A culture where we teach the skills of conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and nonviolence in video games, novels, and the type of history we study in the classroom. A society that is universally horrified at the prospect of going to war rather than accustomed to endless, borderless wars. An economy where profiting from weapons is illegal, and peace work is considered invaluable to economic wellbeing. In this vision of a culture of peace, 20,000 motorcyclists are roaring up the road to demand we defund the military, bring the troops home, dismantle nuclear weapons, and end the endless wars. To me, Memorial Day should be a day when we mourn those who have died in wars – soldiers and civilians on all sides of the conflict – and renew our efforts to prevent the travesty of war from ever happening again.

How are you honoring and recommitting to peace on Memorial Day Weekend?

Toward peace,


Speaking of the peace economy … all my novels oppose war and violence and promote peace and active nonviolence. You can find them all on sale this week on my website. At 20% off, you can pick up summer reading for yourself and friends! Check it out here>>