I got the inspiration for this event while watching a documentary about women in Liberia. That country was… until recently, embroiled in a terrible civil war that dragged on for years. Finally, a group of women had enough. They printed up white t-shirts declaring “PEACE NOW!” and they sat together in the market. Instead of selling things, they sang, prayed, and talked of how to spread the message of peace. Day after day. Month after month.
Their numbers grew, and they got noticed. They sent a message to the leader, asking for an end to the attacks. News spread, and other countries in Africa started pushing for peace talks. The women talked to their friends and relatives, who talked to the warlords and got them to agree to a summit.
The warlords didn’t take the summit seriously, until the women sat in the hall of the building and blockaded them from leaving. After months of negotiations, there was a ceasefire, a disarmament, and a transitional government.
Again, the women were involved in implementing all these things by being present, by being visible, and by being vocal. The dictator was exiled. A woman was elected President. The whole nation began to sing the women’s peace songs. What an incredible thing for a small group of women to accomplish.
With some of the uncivil and even frightening things being said recently, it can sometimes feel like we are under siege. I know I have worried that the contagion of anger and aggression will spread, and that those of us who stand for reason and harmony will be outnumbered. “How do we reach them?” I ask myself when I hear people talking about attacking others. “How do we get them to see that we are all connected?”
And then I remember the women of Liberia. They made their voices heard for peace and respect. They did it not by shouting or calling names or making demands. They did it by singing and praying and coming together to set the intention of what they wanted to see in their community and their nation.
So…do not doubt for a second that we…this small group assembled here tonight….have the same power.
All of us are here tonight because we are and we want to be those voices of reason that light the way forward for others. We are here together because we care about one another, and about our community.
The issue then, is…how do we convince those who are spreading misinformation, threats, violence, and even hate? How do we light the way for them to move from fear to love?
We start by understanding that many of those who are angry are victims. They are being taken advantage of by the fear mongers. We could almost feel sorry for them….but…. Pity won’t help things.
Pity comes from a belief that we are separate and one person can look down on other. Compassion is different. It’s realizing that we are all basically the same. We’ve all heard the scientists say that we are all 99.9% the same. But let’s take a moment to really take that in, to realize that we are not only almost identical, but that we are connected, fundamentally and unequivocally. PAUSE.
Quantum physics is starting to prove that our thoughts and our emotions create an energy field which extends outside our bodies, and mingles with others. It sounds weird, and it is. It’s a little unnerving to know that other people’s bad day can intrude on us. But the good news is that our positive energy radiates out to others. It might not conquer someone else’s negativity, but it can help. Again, this is not just new age mumbo jumbo. Respected physicists and researchers are proving this more and more every day.
It’s easy to feel the harmony now, surrounded by supportive people with similar values and objectives. Now the hard part….extending that feeling toward those who are making us angry. That is not to say that we condone their words or actions, or ignore their ignorance.
We look for common ground. We all want a good life for our families. We want a good future for our children. We all want a strong and prosperous city, state, and country. We just differ on what exactly that looks like, and how to get there.
Even this evening, there may be things said that you don’t agree with, or that even offend you. If you’re not a Christian, the prayers might offend you, and there may be things said in the speeches that you oppose. If that’s the case, I apologize, but I ask you to look past any unintentional transgressions, and focus on our larger mission….we are all connected, and we can unite to be a voice of peace and respect and love and harmony. And that as we open our hearts, we can give others the confidence to do the same.
We can speak with courage and conviction about the need for justice. Not just legal justice, but economic and social justice, where everyone is treated and treats others with respect. Where everyone has their basic needs met.
Civil rights attorney Bryon Stevenson said in a recent commencement address: “those ideas in your mind… are not enough. To actually say things that change the world, those ideas in your mind have to be fueled by some conviction in your heart. I hope that you haven’t forgotten your conviction. I hope you haven’t been misled or distracted or otherwise persuaded that your convictions aren’t important, because, in some ways, they’re the only things that are important. And, married with those ideas, you can say things.
He continues: “I believe we have to judge our society not by how we treat the rich and the privileged and the favored and the empowered. We judge the civility and the quality of our society by how we treat the poor, the condemned, the imprisoned.”
That’s why we are here tonight. To help each other to speak out against injustice…but more importantly…to help each other lead the way…to a more just society.
We…stand and sit together here tonight to create an intention of a better Carlsbad. We….are building a network in Carlsbad of compassion and justice. We continue to visualize a Carlsbad where people have civil, respectful discussions on meaningful topics, seeking to solve problems and help one another. We are creating a Carlsbad where people can peacefully disagree, and keep an open mind, seeing common ground always.
We are living the example of speaking out and standing up for what is right. That means we will be under attack, but we do not cower. We find strength in each other and our higher power. We continue to work for a Carlsbad where every woman, man, and child, has a nice home, nutritious food, and is safe from harm.
Where every person is educated, curious, and seeks to help each other through the day. Where good jobs are plentiful, and innovation is a strong factor in our city’s success. And perhaps most importantly, a Carlsbad where citizens discuss issues, disagree peacefully, consider other’s viewpoints, and have open minds to new possibilities and solutions. A Carlsbad and nation where people think and act from love and gratitude for this magnificent planet and life we have.