Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. The first ran in this space Nov. 16.
In last week's column I quoted Gandhi who urged us to "be the change we wish to see in the world," and I noted how "being" precedes "doing." This week, I want to talk about honesty with ourselves, especially around our beliefs related to peace.
Tom Lehrer, a 60s satirical folk singer, once introduced his song "National Brotherhood Week" this way: "There are some people who do not love their fellow man "¦ and I hate people like that!"
We can laugh at this "¦ but we might just as easily cry. How many so-called leaders wear this kind of hypocrisy as a personal signature? I noticed recently that a former vice president was quoted as saying that war with Iran was inevitable. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh wrote about a 2008 meeting in that VP's office where a number of ideas were discussed to provoke a war with Iran, among them to dress up some Navy Seals as Iranians, position them on bogus Iranian boats, and then shoot at them.
If leaders aren't going to lead the way to peace, we'll have to do it for ourselves. That starts with being brutally honest and daring to question our beliefs. Let's start with our attitudes about other people. How do we really feel about them? Do we champion each other's differences or do we "hate people like that?"
Who's on your list? Republicans, Democrats, gay people, people for or against abortion; the various religions; gang members or bullies? Who do you see as an "other," someone different from you and therefore wrong somehow?
This is where peace begins, right at home, with a fierce honesty about our prejudices. How is it that we might consider ourselves peace-loving and yet harbor hate, or at least dislike, for certain people? One answer is that there is something about them that threatens us, something that challenges our own sense of security.
Here's a personal peace process: Identify who you are excluding right now from those you accept unconditionally. Make an actual list. It might include a family member who drinks too much, a politician who seems to hate women, a neighbor with a dog that relieves himself in your yard "¦ well, put that dog on your list too.
So, make your list. Study the names. And then ask yourself, one at a time: "What is it about (name) that I am afraid of?" Inevitably, if you really do this, you will uncover something inside yourself, something somehow similar to their behavior. That's why they bug you so much.
Sure, you may act very differently than they do. But something resonates. Let's say that a person on your list hates environmentalists. You don't. But you may hate industrialists. Another person may treat their children in a way you disapprove of. How did your parents treat you, and how do you treat them now?
It's about asking questions of yourself to ferret out where your hypocrisy is hiding. This is peace leadership, doing what Gandhi advised, working toward "being" the change you wish to see. It certainly doesn't happen just because you recite the quote! It takes work, on the inside, to become a genuine peacemaker.
This season of the year is the perfect time to practice. It only takes a few minutes but it could become a regular habit of honest personal inquiry.
Peace on earth, good will toward (all) men (and women, and animals, and plants, and "¦ everything, without exception!).
Will Wilkinson is an author, filmmaker and director of a Happiness campaign. www.wakeupandbehappy.com.
The Ashland Daily Tidings invites residents of the Rogue Valley to submit articles on all aspects of inner peace. Send 600- to 700-word articles to Sally McKirgan, firstname.lastname@example.org.