In February of 2009 the U.S. House of Representatives heard H.R. 808 (first introduced in July of 2001, just months before the Twin Towers fell in New York on September 11th), to design a Cabinet-level Department of Peace and Nonviolence that embodies a broad approach to peaceful conflict resolution at both domestic and international levels. The Department would promote non-violence as an organizing principle and help to generate the conditions necessary for a more peaceful world. In light of sustained violent conflict, both locally and globally, such a department would serve in the advancement of peace, both in the present and for the sake of future generations.
The following are some highlights from the proposed legislation:
* Headed by a Secretary of Peace and Nonviolence, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, the Department would be dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to both domestic and international peace.
* The mission of the Department shall be: to hold peace as an organizing principle of life; endeavor to promote justice and the expansion of human rights; strengthen non-military means of peacemaking; promote the development of human potential; work to create peace, prevent violence, divert from armed conflict and develop new structures in nonviolent dispute resolution; and take a proactive, strategic approach in the development of policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful resolution of conflict and structured mediation of conflict.
* The Department will create and establish a Peace Academy, modeled after the military service academies, which will provide a four-year concentration in peace education. Graduates will be required to serve five years in public service through programs dedicated to domestic or international nonviolent conflict resolution.
While the specifics of H.R. 808 require further analysis and input from U.S. citizens, one would like to believe that the core idea of peacebuilding would receive significant bipartisan support, especially among military veterans with firsthand experience of violent warfare. However, the U.S. has resisted this policy proposal for generations, for even as far back as 1792 a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, along with Benjamin Banneker, suggested the blueprint for an Office of Peace (intended to counter what was then known as the Department of War). President George Washington stated that his first wish was "to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth", yet legislation for a Department of Peace was not introduced until 1935, which, by 1969 was followed by nearly one-hundred additional bills. While many U.S. citizens state a longing for peace and nonviolence, we lack the political will and public motivation to make it a reality, and the result is a continued state of aggression and destruction.
The time is upon us to recognize that peace is not merely a destination, but a journey, and not merely a noun, but a verb, for we can be people of peace even in the midst of a violent world. Our culture of cruel and unusual conflict, often fueled by fear and greed, is both unacceptable and unsustainable, and a U.S. Department of Peace would be a positive step in a peaceful direction. While the total removal of human brutality is unimaginable for most, such legislative efforts would affirm that the reduction of violence anywhere will inevitably do something for the reduction of violence everywhere. Since our federal budget is indeed a moral document, instead of only spending billions of dollars each year defending ourselves from our neighbors, the time is also upon us to invest more fully in methods of making peace alongside our neighbors, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also".