By Rachel Miles
On Thursday September 18, five students and two professors took a van to Lynchburg VA to hear a speech on Peace. The students present were from The Peace and Justice Concentration, students with professors in that concentration, and those intrigued by the idea of overthrowing war with peace. The speech was given in a small Unitarian Church in the center of Lynchburg whose pews were filled with interested members of the church and community as well as those who have been following the speaker, Paul Chappell, as he toured and gave peace talks around the country. After the speech he gave late Thursday night in Virginia, he would fly to San Francisco for another lecture.
Paul Chappell is a peace activist who began his adult life in the army, serving in Iraq after graduating from West Point in 2002. In addition to his many talks about the possibility and need for peace, he has authored many books such as The End of War, Peaceful Revolution, and The Art of Waging Peace. Because of his unique background for a peace activist, Chappell was able to bring a balanced and realistic perspective to the conversation. His argument was centered around the fact that humans are not naturally violent. He says that this can be proved by our stronger tendencies towards flight rather than fight and by how hard militaries and governments must work to keep their soldiers from running away. If violence was natural to humans, Chappell says that war would not traumatize the human brain, but make it more healthy- children would be better off in violent homes. War is only possible, not because we are naturally violent, but because we are naturally loving. It is this love for country, family and ideals such as freedom that is manipulated by leaders to cause citizens to fight for them.
After this logical set up for natural peace, Chappell discussed the power of peace leadership. Businessmen, he says, tell their employees the job and the pay, the military tells their soldiers the job and pay and the risk that they might be killed. Peace leaders, he says, tell their followers the job, that they will not be paid and the risk that they may be killed. How great, then, was the power of men like Gandhi who gained hundreds of followers despite what little he could offer them on a material level. He attributed this to the power of the message of peace.
“In the 21st century, humanity has become so interconnected that we are all citizens of the world, whether we recognize it or not. During the challenging years ahead, our planet will need soldiers of peace who understand this truth of our brotherhood, because our survival in an interconnected world will not depend upon our ability to wage war. The fate of humanity will depend upon our willingness to wage peace.”
At the end of his hour and a half lecture, Chappell fielded some difficult and even accusatory questions from the audience who had wanted answers about why there are still soldiers in the Middle East or wanted to vent about their personal problems with the government. These questions were handled well by Chappell who had a very personal history with the military and said merely that issues in that area were not resolved, and therefore the country is acting in the way they think best. After answering further questions, Chappell took a seat amidst much applause. For the next hour, he signed and sold books in the lobby of the church, also mixing with the students and guest, answering questions and further convincing everyone that he spoke to that peace was a nonnegotiable of the future.