Posted by: malechallengemedia | February 14, 2010

Ending a Cycle of Violence – From Violent Past to Capital Hill

Ending a Cycle of Violence – From Violent Past to Capital Hill

My personal Hiroshima occurred when I was a young boy! The first hard hit from my father’s hand exploded in my head as the tears ran down my face. Up until this turning point I’d only received love and care from my parents. Now everything had changed and like America after 911, I realized life would never be the same again. Perhaps that is when the rage began building within me until it became a volcano ready to erupt. It built steadily over the years each time I was hit, each time I saw my mother beaten by my dad.

Years later my own rage erupted as violence against my wife, the woman I loved. I realized with horror that what I hated in my father was emerging in me. It was a cancer inherited through the genes. I felt great shame and self hatred that I’d become like him and was really scared this cancer may be incurable since I was in my forties at the time. With great trepidation I began the long journey to defuse the time bomb inside me and learn new behavioral skills. I invested a fortune in therapy and workshops. For more than a decade I learned violence prevention and non-violent communication skills. I became a mediator and worked with gang kids in school programs and inside juvenile detention centers. Later I was a mediator in the Juvenile Justice systems in Australia and the US.

Jump forward until February, 2007 when a full circle was completed. The story that follows is part of a report I wrote last month.

Bitter arctic winds blasted the nation’s capitol – the coldest weather in decades. The wind chill may have been below zero but my heart was warm as we leaned into the wind and hastened to Capital Hill to promote the Department of Peace Bill. This truly was a day for us to remember and a personal achievement for me and my very supportive community.

Seven hundred (700) of us paid 220 visits to senators and congressmen’s offices in this well prepared national campaign to wage peace. We passionately shared our desires/reasons for the peace bill stating that the peoples of America have been saying no to war with increasingly loud voices; we said that we represented thousands more like us back in our communities.

We cited the Global Alliance for Departments of Peace in 20 countries, as evidence of a tsunami of a peace-minded global citizenry – that we believed that this movement will succeed just as the abolitionists and suffragettes succeeded, because this is an evolution occurring in the hearts and minds of millions worldwide.

We reminded our politicians that the bill would establish a cabinet level department of peace and non violence to give much-needed assistance to efforts by communities and state governments in coordinating existing violence prevention programs; as well as develop new programs based on best practices nationally. Including:
— Teach violence prevention and mediation to America’s school children
— Effectively treat and dismantle gang psychology
— Rehabilitate the prison population – the world’s largest.
— Build peace-making efforts among conflicting cultures both here and abroad
— Support our military with complementary approaches to peace-building
— Create a U.S. Peace Academy – a sister organization to the U.S. Military Academy.
I tell this story for a number of reasons. I’m not proud that I have been violent with women. I’m ashamed and horrified that I hurt a living soul let alone the ones I most loved. I am proud however, that I have done much to embrace a personal culture of peace and non-violence and I’m glad to have broken the cycle of violence passed down within my family.
I’m equally honored to be involved in bringing this America wide campaign of peace to the US government. Amazingly, while waiting in the lobby to meet with our senator, it emerged that most in our group (from Oregon) had come from violent families and some, like me, had been violent themselves. I assumed many of the 700 lobbyists on Capital Hill that day had similar backgrounds and it gave me hope that the wound of violence could drive such a powerful movement for peace.
Grace Gawler, in her book Women of Silence, says “The strength that harmed you could ultimately be turned into a different strength that could heal you.” My journey to Capital Hill was exactly that; a journey of self healing, while, at the same time, a powerful step to reduce violence in the US and the world.
Significantly the Department of Peace Bill would support the good work carried out by organizations such as the Men’s Resource Centre and Mediation Works in Medford, Oregon, where I am a volunteer. Essentially the Department of Peace (DoP) would be a funding and coordinating body expanding on existing expertise and best practices all across the country.
I’m also very excited that within the DoP campaign there is a fast growing body of students for peace. The Student Peace Alliance chapters are organizing at community colleges, liberal arts colleges, universities, and high schools across the nation. By integrating efforts with local communities, SPA groups build strong partnerships with those outside school walls. SPA chapters support the Department of Peace through grassroots organizing, lobbying, and working to support cultures of peace on their campuses and in local communities.

I’m sure that I would have joined a movement like that when I was young and perhaps the violence that emerged in me many years later would have been healed and nobody would have been hurt.
I have not met the good men and women at the Men’s Resource Center but I am happy to make my small contribution through this article; I feel good about supporting a group dedicated to healing the rage and potential violence in men. In alerting readers to the possibility of a Department of Peace we make real a source of funding and coordination for many organizations like the MRC.
It is wonderful to be partnered with thousands of similar groups worldwide who are working to prevent violence through a holistic approach. This excites me because a holistic method is more effective than the reductionist approach we have been using. Preventing one war is great but to treat the causes of all wars is more powerful.
Similarly we need to treat the root causes of domestic violence, gang violence and international terrorism – we need a whole systems approach, and that includes seriously working to improve ourselves. Just as we can prevent disease in ourselves by addressing the deep causes, so we can treat the disease of violence in ourselves and in the world.
The fascinating thing is that the model that works in the larger world, the macro model, also works on a smaller scale within self (the micro). In order to create an inner culture of peace I needed to apply a holistic approach of healing to myself. In following my goal of ‘peace by peaceful means,’ I had to create an inner world where all voices can be heard – and I had to be kind, very kind.
The same kindness needs to be shown to those in power; those whose violent government policies we abhor. I find it useful to remember that the men who implement such policies are probably deeply wounded as I was. My inner work is to create a psychological bridge to them, to hold them as brothers who can heal the pain behind their beliefs and policies. I truly imagine sitting in a heart circle with such men, the Cheneys, Bushs and Bin Ladens of our world and hearing the buried pain that lead to their violent actions.
Until that day is achieved I am continuing to leverage my violent past and have chosen, amongst other peace work that I do, to throw my efforts behind the global groundswell of people campaigning to create Departments and Ministries of Peace worldwide.
If you are a man/woman with a background like mine or simply want to support a national and international people’s movement with a very concrete plan to establish a lasting culture of peace, then please check the websites listed at the bottom of the article.
US Department of Peace site is http://www.thepeacealliance.org/
The global site is http://www.peoplesinitiativefordepartmentsofpeace.org/

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