Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a national holiday set aside to honor those who have served in the armed forces – and especially those who have died in the military.
My dad served in the Navy in World War II. Growing up I would occasionally hear stories about his experience, especially if I asked him questions about it. I heard stories of his being depth-charged in a submarine and flying through surface-to-air attacks in airplanes (he was an electrician and radar specialist).
One particularly poignant conversation occurred when I was about 10 or 11. We were in the basement of our home (where his office desk was located) and I happened to notice an old shotgun in the rafters that I had not seen before. I asked who the gun belonged to and was a bit surprised when he said it was his.
“But you don’t hunt, do you?” I asked. He replied that he did as a teenager but had not hunted since the war. I asked why he no longer hunted.
He then turned around from his desk and, looking straight at me, told me about finding himself in Hiroshima some 30 days after it was re-opened following the dropping of the atomic bomb.
Standing at “ground zero,” he told me, all that existed was nothing but ground and, about a football field away, one bare and scrawny tree. Beyond that was the rubble of where there had been homes and office buildings. “I realized in that moment what man was capable of doing to humankind and nature. I have never wanted to hunt since.”
The purpose of this story is not to equate hunting with the dropping of an atomic bomb, but to share one of the most impactful stories I ever heard from my veteran dad about the realities of war.
War is the ultimate expression of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™ and the deadly dance between what Stephen Karpman identified as the roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. The enemy is always the Persecutor; the warring factions’ people the Victims; and their government and military the perceived Rescuers.
But what we know about the DDT is that there is no escape from it without a shift of mind, or Orientation. As long as we see war as a primary way of reacting to enemies, these dramas will continue. We need a difference focus.
That focus has shifted for me. I was a “product of the sixties” and, though I never marched in the streets, was “anti” the Vietnam War at the time (while never blaming those who served in it). As I look back at those days – and acknowledge the current realities of how the DDT rages in our world – the shift of mind that I now know needs to occur is to focus on creating peace, rather than reacting either to or through the violence of war.
We are called to learn how to create peace so that the need for war becomes obsolete.
There is no better proponent of creating peace in the world than the National Peace Academy, whose tag line is “where peacebuilders go to grow.” This non-profit’s focus is on education, research, practice and policy that support the advancement of peace in the world. I am also delighted to say that TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ is a component of some of their curriculum.
As we adopt a Creator Orientation and craft ways of building peace, we will also learn ways in which to resolve disagreements and conflicts by increasing our capacity to engage the TED* roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach.
As we develop these capacities, let us hold the vision that the day will come in which we can celebrate a peaceful Memorial Day in which both the defenders of liberty and democracy AND the builders of peace, who support all of humankind as Creators deserving of such liberty, can be remembered and honored.
(Thanks, Dad, for your service and sacrifice and for being willing to share your experiences with me. Doing so sowed the seeds of my stand as a Creator of peace.)