You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Peace is Not Weak

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/10/2015 Vincent Intondi
DEFAULT © Provided by The Huffington Post DEFAULT

World peace. Just say the phrase and in most cases, you will be quickly dismissed. To talk of peace today means you are a throwback to the 1960s. You are a hippie who has listened to one too many John Lennon songs. You are a dreamer; a naïve idealist who has no idea how the world works. To be a peace activist quite simply means you are weak, and to many, less of a "real" man.
This idea of what it means to be a "real" man is certainly not new. Just like the Cold War, the way we collectively demonstrate our manhood in today's world is through our military might. So as Russian President Vladimir Putin literally flexes his muscles bare chested on horseback, Russia launches missiles into Syria and broadcasts it on state television to show a "sign of strength." Not to be outdone, North Korea just recently had yet another parade in which its leader, Kim Jung-un showed his toughness by having soldiers march in unison with missiles down the street.
Of course, there is no country more obsessed with showing what it means to be a man than the United States. Following Word War II, Cold War culture dominated the U.S. We were rabid with anticommunism and told the only thing that would save us was a strong military...well that, and hiding under our desks. So we dramatically increased our military, especially our nuclear arsenal. In Hollywood, war films dominated. Children grew up wanting to storm the beaches of Normandy, emulating John Wayne. Wayne, not James Dean, became the symbol of a "real" man. Thirty years later, John Wayne gave way to John Rambo. Sylvester Stallone cursed at those peace activists who protested him. He was the realist who went to Vietnam and apparently killed every remaining member of the NLF, along with the Russians who were assisting them. Today, we have films like American Sniper and Zero Dark Thirty that make clear what it means to be a man.
Indeed, leaders on both sides of the aisle, including presidential candidates, consistently point out that military spending is a must. They are quick to mention that if U.S. troops were on the ground, we would "route ISIS" in a matter of weeks. We are told repeatedly that we have the biggest and mightiest military on the planet. If President Obama even thinks of apologizing for anything or pulling troops out of a region, he is labeled "weak."
The reality, however, is that fighting for peace is perhaps the strongest, most courageous thing someone can do. Every time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stepped outside, there was a high probability he would be assassinated. Does anyone doubt his bravery? Was the protester who stood in front of a tank as part of the famous Tiananmen Square protests not a "real" man? Can anyone honestly say Malala Yousafzai does not represent strength and courage?
The idea that peace is weak is something I have been reminded of throughout the last year. As I have traveled the country on a book tour, every time my events were promoted as discussing peace, a certain demographic showed up: mostly older and white. To many, especially younger students, peace still represents weakness. After all, unlike Call of Duty or Soldier of Fortune, there are no video games in which the character tries to be the best peace activist. Moreover, the Peace Movement continues to have a reputation, and understandably so, of being comprised of white and middle-class activists. But as I point out in African Americans Against the Bomb, some of the most militant activists in our history, including many in the black community, like Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party, consistently argued that peace and freedom were inextricably linked. They did not view fighting for peace as an attack on their manhood.
Last weekend in Turkey, thirty people were killed when a peace rally was bombed at the capital. As the wounded and dead were being carried off on their own peace signs, I could not help but think of how many probably viewed them as weak idealists, rather than symbols of strength.
Today, it seems that we are surround by war, gun violence, and police brutality, and that is the very reason, now more than ever, we must collectively strive for peace. That does not mean, we should naively think achieving peace will be easy or even in our lifetime. But those are not reasons to dismiss it. A common phrase at protests I attend is "No Justice, No Peace." We are fighting every day for justice, as we should. But we cannot forget the ultimate goal. For to achieve a world in which we live in peace is perhaps the strongest, most courageous, and bravest thing we can ever do as activists and human beings.

More from Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon