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Belmont Club

Waging peace

October 25th, 2008 - 9:52 am

There have been some attempts to radically change the way government does business. One current proposal is truly extraordinary. GovTrack has this entry for H.R. 808, “A bill to establish a Department of Peace and Nonviolence,” sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-OH]. The bill was introduced February, 2007. It aims to establish a new Department of Peace and Nonviolence with the following offices:

Office of Peace Education and Training.
Office of Domestic Peace Activities.
Office of International Peace Activities.
Office of Technology for Peace.
Office of Arms Control and Disarmament.
Office of Peaceful Coexistence and Nonviolent Conflict Resolution.
Office of Human Rights and Economic Rights.
Intergovernmental Advisory Council on Peace and Nonviolence.

According to the bill’s text, a representative of the Department of Peace and Nonviolence will sit on the National Security Council, recommend policy to the Attorney General and advise the Secretary of Defense and State on all matters concerning national security. One of the justifications for the bill is the following:

We are in a new millennium, and the time has come to review age-old challenges with new thinking wherein we can conceive of peace as not simply being the absence of violence, but the active presence of the capacity for a higher evolution of the human awareness, of respect, trust, and integrity; wherein we all may tap the infinite capabilities of humanity to transform consciousness and conditions which impel or compel violence at a personal, group, or national level toward developing a new understanding of, and a commitment to, compassion and love, in order to create a `shining city on a hill’, the light of which is the light of nations.

I suppose the bill has no realistic chance of being approved either today or in the near future. But the bill’s 70 sponsors are making some kind of statement.  The bill has outside support from a group called The Peace Alliance which is a 501(c)4 organization.

According to Wikipedia, some of the possible concerns of the Department will be “to develop policies to address violence against animals” and “develop new approaches for dealing with the implements of violence, including gun-related violence and the overwhelming presence of handguns”.  From some points of view, the establishment of the Department isn’t a fringe idea but a return to America’s best traditions.

The idea for the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace and Non-violence can be traced back to debates by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. An essay on the establishment of a peace organization was written in 1792 by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a physician, educator, and signer of the Declaration of Independence. His proposal called for the establishment of a “Peace Office” which was to be on equal footing with the “War Office”. It saw an urgent need for the establishment of “an office for promoting and preserving perpetual peace in our country” in order to maintain the greater welfare of “these United States.” But it also called for free schools for youth “carefully instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and in the doctrines of a religion of some kind”, distributing free Bibles at public expense, and putting a sign over the door of the War Department proclaiming “An office for butchering the human species”.

Interesting concept.

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