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Sebastopol Living Peace Wall

Honoring those who have worked nonviolently for peace and justice


Articles and links about how to create a more peaceful world

    Let Peace Begin with Me    Michael Gillotti

One of my teachers, Swami Satchidanda, said if you see someone drowning in a lake, don't jump in to save him until you first learn to swim. Otherwise you will both drown. Of course he was talking about all of us in the 60's and 70's who were so eager to bring peace to the world. Before we can bring peace to others, we must first be peaceful ourselves, otherwise we will just cause more disturbance. The work, then, is to learn to cultivate an inner peace, to rediscover the peace that dwells within each of us. Then we will be more effective messengers or agents for peace.

Being at Peace With Ourselves                                                     Rev. Tara Steele, 

                                                                                             Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa

"Before we can make friends with anyone else, we must first make friends with ourselves."

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

To write this piece, I spent some time googling, seeking the perfect quote on “peace”. Many of those I found reiterated that peace must come from within, that in order to take a stand for peace, we must be at peace with ourselves. What does that mean?

I recently read about the compassion curriculum developed by the Dalai Lama and some of his associates. They described teaching compassion to westerners at Stanford University. Those who crafted the course learned not to begin with compassion for ourselves; being loving and forgiving of ourselves, at peace with ourselves, was difficult for the adults taking the class. Instead, the curriculum begins with the practice of extending compassion and lovingkindness to others. As students’ hearts open toward others, it then becomes possible for them to be self-compassionate.

We can find so much to judge about ourselves, our accomplishments or lack thereof, our bodies, our habits, our financial or relationship status, and on and on. And sometimes, when the inner disquiet becomes too harsh, we release the inner pressure by blaming others, separating ourselves from humankind, creating strangers, enemies, us and them. We forget that all of us are of the same stuff; all of us yearn to be seen, to be heard, to have our lives mean something.

As I reflect on being peace, as I intend to be a loving compassionate presence in the world, I learn to sit gently and lovingly with those parts of myself that feel imperfect. I begin to bless the inner struggles and conflicts that sometimes seem so important and let them go. I embrace all that I am with acceptance and love. As I breathe in, I know an unconditional powerful appreciation for this precious life. As I breathe out, that gratitude radiate out from me, touch all those I meet in love and peace. I invite you to consider this practice in your own life, being that love and compassion that you wish to see in the world.

"You must be the change that you wish to see."     Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi       A brief Biography                                 Paul Robbins

Born in India and trained as a lawyer in London, Mohandas Gandhi, 1869-1948, is considered the first person to experiment on a large scale with active nonviolence for social change. He first applied the philosophy and principles and began developing strategies and tactics in South Africa from 1893 to 1914, as he was working for the civil rights of Indians in South Africa. On September 11, 1906 Gandhi first introduced the phrase satyagraha (“truth force” or “soul force”) as he organized a widespread campaign of noncooperation to resist a law requiring Indians to register with the government. The seven year campaign involved beatings and imprisonment for thousands in the Indian community, but in the end the government capitulated and a compromise was negotiated.

Satyagraha involves seeking objective truth in a situation, working with others to support justice, and nonviolently resisting injustice and oppression. It requires making a personal commitment to do no harm to anyone, while suffering whatever one must endure to bring a just social situation to reality in a relationship, a family, a community, a people, and all of humanity. Satyagraha first requires us to cooperate with one another to build the just society of our highest aspirations. It then requires us to refuse to cooperate and resist nonviolently those who obstruct social, economic, political, and environmental justice, even if that resistance leads us to personal ruin, imprisonment, or physical death. Satyagraha is the greatest of human powers. All human beings possess that power, and when they choose to exercise that power together, all things are possible.

In 1915 Gandhi returned to India to become active in India’s struggle for independence, organizing poor Indians to resist harsh taxation and exploitation. By 1921 he was the leader of the Indian National Congress, a political party dedicated to independence, and on January 26, 1930 the party declared independence from the United Kingdom. The UK did not recognize Indian independence and so began a long nonviolent struggle, including the famous 400 kilometer salt march to the ocean city of Dandi that sparked a nationwide movement of noncooperation throughout Indian society.

Gandhi was in and out of prison many times in both South Africa and India, to include most of World War II. He led a simple life in solidarity with the poorest of Indians and worked constantly to support religious and ethnic cooperation and to oppose all forms of injustice, oppression, discrimination, and militarization. Less well known than his civil disobedience projects, Gandhi considered his development of a “constructive program” of movements to build economic and social self-sufficiency through educational, health care, and economic projects to be his most powerful and important work.

Gandhi undertook long fasts many times in his life for “self-purification” and to influence governments and society. In his last year he undertook a couple of “fasts unto death” to halt Hindu-Muslim violence, and he had just completed such a fast when he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist who opposed Gandhi’s cooperation with Muslim Indians.

Gandhi’s philosophy, principles, and techniques for active nonviolence influenced movements for social change around the world, to include the civil rights movements in the United States and continue to be an inspiration for millions of people.

What did Gandhi say about peace

"Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances."

"An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."

"Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable."

"My life is my message."

"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."

"Poverty is the worst form of violence."

"The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace."

"The pursuit of truth does not allow violence on one's opponent."

"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is."

"We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed, but we must keep

    nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it."

The Power of Nonviolence                               Paul Robbins

Nonviolence is not passive. Nonviolence is an active force for human transformation, a way of being for our becoming fully human.

The power of nonviolence is based on the truth that the powers of commerce, government, and human society rely on the cooperation of people. If people refuse to cooperate, business, government, and war cannot be conducted.

Human society is structured through the administration of government policy and financial, industrial, and commercial organizations. When the structure produces safety, health, equal treatment and economic comfort for all, then the society can be considered a just society. When the structure produces a lack of safety, health, equal treatment, and economic comfort for all, then the society can be considered a domination society.

Active nonviolence becomes a way of life for those who are committed to transforming a domination society to a just society. The nonviolent way of life requires cooperation and noncooperation.

We on the path to a just society work together to produce communities where everyone has clean air, water, and soil, food and shelter, health care, education, employment at a living wage, leisure, cultural creativity, and the opportunity to serve others. Our working together takes the form of a constructive program where we find our power together as we develop projects to better the lives for everyone in our community.

When the powers that be obstruct our efforts to build a just society, we work together in our nonviolent resistance. In our refusing to hurt or hate anyone, we live as if we are already free by not cooperating with society’s structural institutions. The domination powers will turn on us and endeavor by all means, such as ridicule, social and political attacks, and then through police, military, judicial, and financial repression, to get us to fall back in line as compliant subjects.

When we support each other in our nonviolent noncooperation and resistance, none of the repression works, and eventually the representatives of the domination society agree to negotiate. Our strength together then enables we the people to negotiate from a position of strength to demand the changes that move us forward to creating a just society.

The cooperation and noncooperation aspects of active nonviolence show us what democracy looks like. Nonviolence is the path of our evolution to becoming not just human beings, but strong, humane beings.

Why Veterans Support Peace

Veterans For Peace (VFP) of Sonoma County agrees that to oppose war is one of the highest forms of patriotism. Humanitarian beliefs and compassion for the fragility of the human condition establish our understanding that war is clearly one of the most unenlightened activities of the human experience and opposing war is patriotic. Eventually, wars end with negotiations. Why not start with negotiations? Diplomacy or war, there is a clear choice. What if war were not an option?

On average, twenty-two veterans kill themselves each day; that’s over 8,000 suicides each year. These are cases of known, confirmed suicides; in addition, this suicide rate excludes drug overdoses, alcohol-related deaths and single-car crashes, etc. when motive can’t be determined. Twenty-two veteran suicides per day is actually a low number, not accurately reflecting the totality of this horrendous hidden cost of war. Women veterans (18-34) are three times more likely to commit suicide than civilian peers. As with the American War in Vietnam, many more veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars committed suicide than died in war. Veterans make up less that 10% of the US population but account for 20% of “confirmed suicides.” This statistic alone demonstrates how peace is indeed patriotic if you really care about the troops. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) injury will be diagnosed in 35% of returning war veterans. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the signature wound of Post 9/11 wars, is the greatest predictor for subsequent PTSD and often evolves into the “Poly-trauma Triad” of TBI, PTSD, and Chronic Pain. 

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of the long list of frequently overlooked costs of war. Agent Orange continues to plague both the people of Vietnam and US veterans with horrendous birth defects and cancer. Depleted Uranium (DU) is Agent Orange on steroids, and this fact has been censored from corporate media as we “support the troops” currently being exposed. 

We like to talk about family values, but consider the family impact of sending a husband, wife, father, mother, son, or daughter to fight U.S. wars. A repeated theme from family members is that they came back “a different person” and “there is a wall up that can’t be penetrated,” “they can no longer relate” and “they always seem angry.” Domestic violence, depression, substance abuse, insomnia and anxiety are common changes resulting from the experience of war.

People from all walks of life, on all sides of the conflicts, all ages and races, the vast majority being civilians, suffer the enormous costs of war. It doesn’t take excessive gray matter or compassion to understand there were better ways to spend the 1.7 trillion dollars (between 2001 and 2015) spent on the US war machine; for example health care, education, infrastructure, student debt relief, and housing just to name a few.

We at Veterans For Peace are proud to support the Sebastopol Living Peace Wall because we know that Peace is indeed Patriotic.

Submitted by: Bill Simon, PhD, President

                              Veterans for Peace, Sonoma County, Chapter 71

Why is justice linked to peace            Mary Moore

There is no reaching our goal of PEACE without achieving a truly JUST world and that means there is much work ahead. There is no peace in a vacuum. Peace is NOT the absence of conflict, it is the presence of justice. There simply will be no real peace on this earth until the issues of Race, Class, Gender and all “dominant over” concepts are overcome once and for all. It is with that goal in mind that we must approach any effort even if it is a symbolic one.  

Back in 1980 some of us conceived the idea of a Peace Center to house the various movements that were going on in our community. We needed a central place to meet and to call our own where we could network and dispense the ideas floating around. Some of us at the time felt that if we were going to succeed at this concept we needed to put JUSTICE in the name of our new project for the reasons I’ve listed above. I’d love to report that it was an easy sell, but the truth is that it took over a year of lobbying to make it happen for real and we found our own sign maker (thanks Lenny) to create a replacement sign. But it did happen and in retrospect, even those who were opposed to the idea at the time have come around to understanding how closely these two ideas are connected.

Why I refused to fight in Vietnam         Michael Gillotti

 When I arrived in San Francisco in 1970 I was on fire to end the war in Vietnam and create a more peaceful planet. It all started back in Iowa with the awakening of my awareness to the brutality and suffering of war and culminating with my filing for Conscientious Objector status with my draft board. I would refuse to participate in the killing and maiming of other human beings. If I could do nothing else to stop the madness of the Vietnam war, I could at least make the very personal moral decision to not lend my body and soul to the war effort. 

We all know that killing is wrong. Even the bible says clearly "thou shall not kill". But somehow when you put on a uniform it is suddenly ok. The military knows there is a deeply held reluctance to kill another human being, so they have devised methods of helping soldiers overcome this "inhibition". The first is to dehumanize the enemy. You're not really killing another human, you're killing a "Jap" or a "Goog" or a "rag head".

The second is to put you in a situation where you either kill or you will be killed. If your survival is at stake, you are more willing to kill. If someone is shooting at you, you will instinctively kill him before he kills you.

And thirdly, you are trained to follow orders and not to follow your own conscience. You are trained not to listen to your inner voice but rather to the outer voice of your commanding officer. 

Initially I believed we had to fight in Vietnam to stop communism from spreading, but It became clear to me and to many others as the war progressed that something was terribly wrong. At one point the argument was made that we had to destroy the villagers and their crops in order to save them from communism. This logic was clearly exposed by the Mylai Massacre in 1969 where nearly 500 men women and children were murdered by American troops and their village burned down. The photographs shocked the world and helped turn even many hawks against the war.  

In the end we killed more than 2.5 million Vietnamese and maimed thousands more. The defoilents like agent orange and napalm left many exposed victims and have led to birth defects and other continuing health problems

I knew that in the end I had to follow my conscience or pay a price. Once you have been turned into a killer by the military, you are then expected to return home and become part of civilized society forgetting everything that you've done or witnessed. This is not as simple as turning off a switch and picking up where one left off. Post traumatic stress took and is still taking a terrible toll on soldiers returning from war. Many Vietnam Vets were and are among the homeless, the alcoholics and drug addicts, unable to adjust to life after war.

And last year we passed a milestone. More Vietnam Vets have now killed themselves, over 58,000, than died in the war itself.

Finally, when I was younger I thought war was glorious and was where a man could prove himself and perhaps, even be heroic. The Marines would make a man out of me, I was told. But even though the military does all they can to hide it and sanitize it, the ugly reality of war is just that, an ugly, brutal and totally inhuman enterprise that negatively effects the victims as well as the perpetrators. If we want to end war, let's just not show up to fight the next time and instead dedicate ourselves to finding nonviolent, peaceful resolutions to conflicts. No matter what they say, it is possible as well as necessary. --------