Give Peace (House) a chance

In the wake of the flood of tears over the closing of the local library, another venerable institution in Ashland announced it, too, is having financial problems. Peace House director Holly East announced her resignation last week against the backdrop of ongoing financial difficulties for the struggling nonprofit. East’s assistant, and the only other paid employee of Peace House, Jessica Martin, is also seeking another line of work.

Unlike the local public library, Ashland’s Peace House stands alone as an institution that has no equal in this community. While having an operating public library is important — and there are other libraries in Ashland to support the needs of the community at large — having a local organization that works toward bringing about peace is also important.

So where is the concern in the community that rises up to say we cannot afford to lose Peace House? Where are the organizers that seek to prevent the closure of Peace House? Where are the families that desire peaceful communities in which to raise children? Where are the war protesters who resist the deceptive devices of a government that wages war amid false pretenses?

Over the past two years, Peace House has operated on a shoe-string budget, hosting events and fundraisers that served to bring in just enough to keep the doors open until the next fundraising event. Under such circumstances how can this organization — created to stand against aggression, promote peace and keep the public informed — achieve its goals? Peace House, like any other nonprofit, needs public support. It needs not only the monies necessary to pay its bills and function as an organization, but it also needs volunteers, collaborations with businesses, schools, libraries, and civic organizations within this and other communities.

In other words, Peace House is not simply a local nonprofit, it is a viable part of Ashland that is in need of restoration.

Ashland is fortunate enough to boast the presence of world-class theater, highly-educated youth, excellent dining and natural scenic beauty. But, in all of these things, there is cooperation and support from the community at large to ensure its success. OSF attracts tourists from all over the world. But it still needs local support to succeed. Ashland schools and the local university are excellent places for youth to receive a quality education. But educational institutions need the support of the community or they, too, fail.

And while Ashland sits just a few miles from Medford, there is no comparison between the cities in scenic beauty. Both have mountains, streams, parks and communities, but Ashland is constantly focused on the preservation of its natural resources and lands — thus ensuring that this city will continue to thrive with a conscience of its relationship with the natural beauty that surrounds it.

There are many things important to every geographical region. But sitting beneath the mountain of priorities we have as separate communities is the same foundation of peace. If it were not for peaceful co-existence with one another, Ashland would not be as welcoming of a community. And if war were to come to this nation, the priorities of every American would instantly change, as they have in every nation where the U.S. has waged war.

Peace House has an intimate understanding of the ramifications of war. It realizes how desperate people become, how the environment is contaminated and destroyed, how lives are broken, children are lost and the aged are forgotten. Tragedy follows every conflict. Those left alive will never be the same. Those who witness unimaginable horrors will live with it playing over and over within their minds.

War is indeed hell. It is something to be avoided at all costs.

And within our own community we have a longstanding institution that seeks to raise its voice against war, to educate the public on the many problems associated with war, and to expose the deceit that leads nations and peoples into war against one another.

Peace House is an outcropping of Ashland’s own conscience and this city's sincere desire for diversity and peaceful co-existence. It is an institution that has a higher calling than its local roots. It engages in worldwide peace movements, establishes a reservoir of valuable information regarding militarism and seeks to establish a Department of Peace within our own government.

Ashlanders are rightfully upset about the closing of the public library. But, unlike the library, Peace House has no equal in this or any other community. It represents something we can all agree on ... peace. And so, like the libraries, Peace House deserves our support. For if we lose this organization, we lose something that cannot be replaced ... our conscience.

* * *

is the author of "The WHOLE Truth about the U.S. War on Terror: answers to every question you never knew to ask"