[Today, I spent some time looking through my old writing files and found some things that I thought had been lost in the black hole that is my hard drive. It was fun to find reminders of who I was in the not-so-distant past and to see how my dreams and values have changed and how they have remained the same. Since this blog has mostly become a burial ground for my old writings, I thought I’d post this to remind you of (or introduce you to) Christine, circa 2006.
I wrote this letter for my “Methods of Peacemaking” class, which was taught by Caroline Higgins at the start of her (and my) last semester of Earlham College. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to ‘graduate’ with Caroline, and hope that she’s having the fantastic retirement that she deserves.]
January 17 2006
This is my last semester of college and for one of the last classes I will ever take at Earlham I was required to write a letter to people I consider to be in my ‘personal network’ explaining my values, future goals and commitment to peace work. If you have received this letter it is because you have at some point played an important role in the creation of my values and goals, and I want you to be a part of that conversation.
A lot of times I am asked why I chose Peace Studies as my major. The only real answer I have is that I can’t think of anything in the world more important to study. We have already become so incredibly efficient at war making– perfect, even– in the sense that we are now able to effectively end all humanity in one day if we wished to do so. In that sense, we have literally reached as far as we are able to go in that direction.
I believe that our incredible efficiency in war is directly a result of how much time we spend on it as a species. So much money, time, and effort is spent on preparing for, planning and executing war that we’d be idiotic to not be good at it by now. We’re good at war because we’ve studied war. Meanwhile, the divide between the rich and the poor is greater than any other time in history, children shooting their classmates have become a regular aspect of the evening news and the leading cause of death of pregnant women is their partners.
So it seems to me that if we got so good at war by studying it, maybe we’re so bad at peace because of the lack of time we spend studying that. Maybe it’s because we think of peace as merely a lull that takes place in-between wars. Something that becomes void as soon as a conflict arises. Something to be hoped for, but not to be worked for.
So, peace is what I have spent time studying. I study why conflicts arise between people, communities and nations. I study peaceful ways people have solved those conflicts. I study root causes for violence and ways to address them before they can fester. I study ways to end the violence of war, but also ways to end the violences of poverty, racism, patriarchy and apathy, and I study how they’re all connected.
So what? Those are the reasons I chose the path that I did and and those are my values, but what am I going to do with all this? I really wish I had some one-word answer like “lawyer” or “politician” but as of now, I don’t. However, more than anything, my problem is that I have too many interests and passions to settle on just one for the rest of my life. But I think that’s a better problem to have than to not have enough passions, so in a way, I’m not too worried.
Lately, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the politics of food. How are we so incredibly efficient at making food, and yet so many people still go hungry? How is agribusiness such a huge part of our (both world and national) economy but farmers in the U.S. have a suicide rate twice as high as the national average? Why was my hometown The Avocado Capital of America but the avocados we’d buy at the supermarket were from Latin America? I feel like there’s a connection between our un-environmentally sustainable farming practices, the amount of hunger in the world, and the choices I make when I go to the grocery store.
In the last year or two, I’ve spent time trying to find out what those connections are. I worked at a soup kitchen and an organic farm. I volunteer at my local food co-op and I’m already excited about re-planting my vegetable garden when spring comes. I don’t know if this is an area I’m going to be able to have a career in, at least immediately, but I’ve found it to be some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever taken part of, and wherever I end up in the future it’s clear that I’ll need to keep working at soup kitchens, going to farmers’ markets, and planting my garden.
My other big passion is something else I can credit Earlham for. In the last three years I have become absolutely convinced of the power of story telling and active-listening in peace making. A lot of this has been due to my time as a Sexual Assault Survivor’s Advocate at Earlham. Through this work, I have seen first hand the healing that comes with letting someone tell their own story and give a voice to their experience. My training as an Advocate has had another unexpected benefit in that I feel like I have learned how to be a better listener and a better friend to the important people in my life.
In Northern Ireland I was exposed to another aspect of storytelling. I saw many wonderful organizations that use the power of storytelling to let people that have suffered because of The Troubles come together to share their experiences. Through looking honestly at what they’ve all experienced in the past they are able to work towards a better future and break down old concepts of an enemy. In Northern Ireland, as both a creative writer and an advocate I became fully aware of the potential of peace work done through storytelling and listening.
Chances are, I will probably do some combination of all of those things, and a bunch of other things that I couldn’t even imagine right now. I don’t know all of the answers about where I am going to be in the next ten years (or even the next ten months!), but I do have a sense of direction and at the same time an openness to new possibilities and I feel like that’s a good combination.