Welcome to Peace is Loud! You might be curious about our name. Most organization names aren’t full sentences, I know, but it is the phrasing that best suits our mission, and I love it. The inspiration for Peace is Loud came from one of the Liberian women featured in the first documentary I produced Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Toward the end of the Liberian civil war Sugars—one of the elder, wiser women—says to a group that has gathered to strategize, “Peace is not an event. Peace is a process.”
It was a turn of phrase that I could not get out of my mind. It was profound to have the idea of peace so thoroughly dislodged from its moorings in my imagination as something static, unmoving. She changed the idea of peace for me from “Mission Accomplished” to “Let’s Get to Work!”
When I was young my mother always talked about wanting some “peace and quiet.” To her, peace was secluding herself in a corner with a good book and a glass of lemonade and letting the world go on about its business without her. Don’t get me wrong—that kind of personal peace is wonderful and important for each of us to have once in a while. But the kind of peace Sugars was talking about was something entirely bigger, grander, and more profound.
Peace asks to be made. Peace is work. Peace is a march on Washington, a sit-in at the Governor’s office, a meeting to work out our differences. Peace might involve some shouting—if shouting will get us through our disagreements and onward toward understanding. Peace is confronting an aggressor, standing up against a bully, and resisting the status quo.
Peace asks of us that we occasionally choose to be a thorn in society’s side, a fly in the ointment, the squeaky wheel. How else could Martin Luther King Jr. have led a popular movement to bring justice to the oppressed people of the American South? The changes he sought were not simply going to rain down from heaven, or settle over the suffering like a warm blanket. They had to be fought for, against foes that seemed too powerful, too set in their ways, and too well resourced to even think of opposing.
What do civil rights have to do with peace? Isn’t peace just the opposite of war? Well I ask you, if you’d grown up an Alabama sharecropper in the 1940’s, would your existence have been materially better than that of a Londoner living under the constant threat of bombardment by the Germans six thousand miles away?
Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” And it is the holiest of callings to choose to trouble the water if the water is drowning your fellow men and women.
As an American, I can say with certainty that I do not live in a culture of peace. And that is not all right with me. I want to transform my culture from one that seeks out violence as an answer to almost any problem—that oftentimes romanticizes, aestheticizes, even eroticizes violence in its mainstream culture, and that has exported more war than any democracy in history—into one that sees nonviolence as an ideal to which to be aspired, and peace as a positive state of justice and creativity rather than simply the absence of conflict.
Peace is a verb. Peace is a commitment. Peace is loud.
Photo credit: Gabrielle Revere