There really is no department within our government that looks at alternatives to war and violence. This is a department whose time has come.” U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland
We have a State Department. A Defense Department. A Department of Homeland Security. Why don’t we have a Department of Peace? It’s an idea gaining momentum on its march to reality. Why not a Peace Department? The concept is not new; the first formal proposal for such a government agency dates back to 1792. The current champion is The Peace Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan group founded in 2004 to support the burgeoning grassroots campaign.
The Cabinet-level U.S. Department of Peace would serve as a clearinghouse to facilitate nonviolent solutions to conflict. Peace Alliance Managing Director Wendy Greene breaks it down. “Domestically, the Department will develop policies and allocate resources to support local communities in finding and replicating effective violence-reduction and prevention programs. Internationally, it will expand our focus on addressing the root causes of violence, providing the President and Congress with expert resources for nonviolently defusing international crises.”
Dennis Kucinich (Democratic Congressman from Ohio, former Presidential candidate and 2003 Gandhi Peace Award recipient) first introduced a Peace Department bill on July 11, 2001, and has reintroduced it during each subsequent two-year congressional session. HR 808, the current bill before the House, has garnered (as of press date) the support of 37 city councils, including Los Angeles, West Hollywood, San Francisco and Cleveland along with the support of 70 members of Congress, among them the department’s first-ever Republican sponsor, Congressman Wayne Gilchrest (MD).
The proposed budget is small…a mere 2% of the equivalent defense budget. And, according to statistics, it would more than pay for itself. The World Health Organization, in a 2004 report, The Economic Dimensions of Interpersonal Violence, estimated the cost of interpersonal violence in the U.S. at $300 billion per year, the cost to victims at more than $500 billion per year. The cost of the Iraq war is projected to exceed one trillion dollars. Finding nonviolent solutions for conflict at all levels can have a significant impact on taxpayer dollars spent to perpetuate violence.
How can we make the Peace Department Bill a national priority?
“It will take citizens to rise up and say this is important and it needs to happen,” says Greene. “Now that the elections are looming, we’re noticing a new kind of listening on the Hill.”
- Sign the “I Stand for Peace Petition” to be delivered to Congress on September 11, 2008. Add your name on The Peace Alliance’s website: peacealliance.org.
- Start a National Walk for Peace (or join an existing walk) on Saturday, September 20.
- Contact your Representative at the U.S. Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3128 and ask them to co-sponsor the Department of Peace legislation. Request a written response explaining our member’s position. Follow up with a fax or email (see The Peace Alliance for sample letter). Visit: votesmart.org to find out the designated Representatives for your district. Find out if your city endorses the Department of Peace, if not garner support.
- Attend the next National Conference, March 27-30, 2009, in Washington, D.C.
- Read Sam Slovick’s article “U.S. Department of Peace – In Our Time? Maybe.” In the September, 2006 issue of LA YOGA, Ayurveda and Health magazine. (Find it online at: layogamagazine.com)
- Stop by a Student Peace Alliance table at one of Jack Johnson’s concerts on his current U.S. tour. The musician is matching donations to the Student Peace Alliance up to $6,000.
- Put a banner on your website.
The Department of Peace has the endorsement of organizations nationwide, including: Amnesty International, Peace is Every Step, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Veterans for Peace, Yes! Youth for Environmental Sanity, Global Exchange, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Brahma Kumaris, Code Pink and the Center for Nonviolent Communications. Encourage your organization to promote peace. For more info visit: thepeacealliance.org.
Joyce Dvoren practices being peaceful even when it’s hard, sometimes successfully.