Sometimes when people see the phrase “waging peace,” they say it sounds too much like “waging war.” They suggest we should find a phrase like “practicing peace” that doesn’t evoke the idea of war. Good point and well taken. Women Against War often uses the phrase “peace work” to describe events, particularly the annual cross-generation conversations we have around the time of International Women’s Day in March. I like “peace work” because it can also be heard as “piece work.” “Piece work” evokes a long history of women’s work and art. We think of factories, of women who did piece work for factories in the home, of quilters. It reminds us of the oppressive conditions under which many women worked and still work, but it also reminds us of women’s tenacity in the face of oppression and of the spirit that could not be denied some expression in art.
But I also support the use of “waging peace” and here’s why. So many times when I talk to people about my peace testimony, I get a response that goes something like this: Sure, peace is possible, some time some day, maybe, when we have solved all the problems that make people fight each other. In other words, peace is possible when no more work nees to be done. In this view, peace comes off as passive, a kind of Sunday rest time, a laying around in the sun and lolling about — nice to think about but really kind of impossible to imagine we would ever get there.
Personally, I see peace as hard work. I often say to people, sometimes don’t you think it would be easier to hit someone than to have to sit down at the table and work out your differences? What is the hardest work you have ever done? Maybe it was that conversation you had to have with someone you disagreed with but also needed to collaborate with. And it takes amazing strength to listen to a person whose views are hard for you to take and not to demonize them. Creating monsters is easy; seeing the human side of your enemy takes courage.
So if “waging peace” can begin to help people see that peace is an active verb, I am all for it. Now that I think of it, maybe we should start using “peace” as a verb in the way we use “war.” How about “peacing nations” to describe those countries that actually get along? Let’s hear more about how they do it and devote less time and energy to those who are “warring.”