Monday, August 11, 2014

Does Peace Equal Justice?

Today, we find several active military conflicts within the world.  The conflict that gets the most press is the conflict between Hamas and Israel.  Many people around the world are doing their best to bring the conflict to an end so that peace can come to the region.  Unfortunately, the definition of "peace" usually means the end of the fighting rather than a result that will lead to a lasting peace.

In our public schools, we are seeing a wave of "anti-bullying" efforts.  This is something I want to applaud, but I have some concerns about how these efforts are applied and carried out.  These efforts in combination with "no tolerance" policies for fighting lead to a message that goes against what we actually want to teach our children.  Although we want to teach our children to stand up to bullies and protect those who are bullied, the message that actually gets proclaimed is that our children should stand aside and not prevent a bully from harming another child.  A child that does step in to protect another student being assaulted will automatically be suspended for "participating" in a fight, even though we should support the child's actions on behalf of the one being harmed.  Because of this, we teach our children that preventing someone from harming another person is the responsibility of "authorities" and "officials," not ours.

Of course, if we limit our understanding of peace to a lack of violence and bullying to physical assault and battery, we miss a great deal of violence and bullying that takes place through non-physical means.  There are many who have found ways to use authorities and officials to do non-physical violence on their behalf.  This can exist in a range from the student who tells a false story to a teacher or principal so that another student gets suspended or expelled by the school to countries that sit on the UN Human Rights Council and point investigators away from the atrocities in their homeland.

If it helps, think of how Whitey is able to manipulate Beaver, his parents, and others in this clip:

I also suggest that you read Sarah Hoyt's thoughts on this topic.  This is a long blog post, but it is an excellent discussion of whether a lack of violence truly represents justice.  Here is a small portion of what she wrote:
"Faced with a classroom full of violent kids, or a world full of violent adults (none of us are angels) it’s very easy to say “I’ll just stop all fighting. I’ll beat anyone who fights.")
"Here’s a problem – you too are a fallible human and filled with violent impulses. (And before one of you asks – did I as a kid dispense the wrong justice? Probably not often. It was a small school and I was aware of the personalities and proclivities. Sometimes, though? Probably.) You’re going to listen to the side that seems right to you. The angelic looking and cleaner side does it for most adults. And half the time it will be the wrong side."

A quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. is "Peace is not the absence of war but the presence of justice."  How do we advocate for justice rather than for peace?  What does justice look like in public schools?  What does justice look like if the world is to stop ISIS from persecuting all people who are not sufficiently Islamic?  In what other situations does "justice" represent more than an end to the fighting?

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