Saturday, June 13, 2009

Needed: Peace Heroes

(by Mary Jane LaVigne | June 11, 2009 )

"Never a shot fired in anger." That's what my father tells me. We’re visiting Fort Snelling in the Model T Ford after Saturday errands. We have many times, but this is the first time I’ve been inside the Round Tower.

Dad boosts me up on the rifle slit so I can peer out. They’re rebuilding the fort. The slit gives me a sight line down the reconstructed wall toward the Mississippi River. I play at taking aim at the invading marauders, all Hollywood and heroic. My father laughs at me. The limestone smells cool. The walls are impossibly thick. If a wall could make you safe, surely these would do the trick.

“If you were a sentry in the old days,” says Dad. “You would have done a whole lot of nothing. Not much happened here.” Never a shot fired in anger. No good battles, this whole beautiful fort, a waste. I am eight years old and a history fan, a war buff. War is synonymous with history to me. Peace is boring and probably indicates a lack of gumption.

That was back in 1968. The events of the day were happening fast but far away; Martin Luther King dead in March, then Robert Kennedy in June. NBC News had nightly pictures of the world gone array. In my family lexicon, hippies, peaceniks and troublemakers were members of the same tribe.

Their “peace rallies” often turned violent. Their “demonstrations” I learned, were not the helpful kind, not at all like the what you’d find in the 4 H building at the State Fair. On our way home from church one Sunday, my Dad spied a peace sign painted on a bed-sheet flapping from the windows of Kirk Hall at Macalester College. “Stay away from Mac,” he warned.

Smack in the center of nothing-ever-happens here land, Minnesota history seemed built on boring. Now, forty years later, Fort Snelling’s battle-less-ness intrigues me. Take a family, a fort, a suburb or city, a congregation or campaign; any patch of peace is pretty sweet. Experience has taught me a lesson; good things seldom happen as the result of doing nothing. Yet, it hard to tell stories about bad things that didn’t occur.

The movie "Soldiers of Peace" does just that. The award winning film, from Australia based One Tree Films documents what it calls an astonishingly little-known fact, that the number of wars across the world is in fact dropping. Narrated by Michael Douglas, it features a list of luminaries including Desmond Tutu.

But on screen, it's the ordinary people who shine the brightest; the Muslim and Christian leaders in a small Nigerian city who sign their own peace pact, an IRA terrorist who makes amends to a young woman whose father was his victim, Iraq Veterans Against War in the U.S.

Memorial Day, Flag Day the new "Greatest Generation" exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, don't give me more veterans of war, I want some peace ancestors. Come to the movie Soldiers of Peace and find some of your own.

Twin Cities Premiere this Monday, June 15th at 7:30 at The Heights Theater. 3951 Central Avenue, NE, Columbia Heights. Tickets at Bibelot or contact Marcy Ryan 612-239-9032
Tickets also at the door. The event is a fundraiser for the Department of Peace Campaign.

Visit DoPeace


  1. Thanks for making this happen and for helping spread the word!

  2. I'm w/ you pal, enough of the glorifying of hate and warfare, it's not fascinating to see good people from either side getting cut down. HOW to get people to stop with this, to glorify those who dedicate their lives to peace and pushing for a better world... it doesn't seem to sell in Peoria...