Flipping on the news each night, I am bombarded with tales of men and women wounded and killed in Middle-Eastern warfare, children brutally abused by their “care-givers,” and rising gang violence littering the streets. Despite all this, I still feel I must hold true to one belief: my belief in flashing a peace sign.
Though it may sound out-dated, even silly, I firmly believe that the simple gesture of “giving peace” can show respect and kindness in a world that tends to have a lack of compassion for fellow members of the human race. Through being involved in theater, I have come to know a man who lived his adolescent years as a “hippie,” and have heard countless stories of hitchhiking half way across the country and back, never once with the fear of endangering his well-being. This sort of uninhibited kindness exhibited by the operators of these vehicles seems to have been lost in a day and age when a stranded driver can barely find someone to jump-start their car.
Although I was not fortunate enough to have experienced “flower power” first hand, often times, when I see a friend being teased because of race, gender, background, or sexual orientation, I must admit that I irritatingly remind the harasser to live on the principle of “making love, not war,” and that “free love” should be our main objective in an time that has already been troubled enough with the plights of war.
Being a student in high school and working the return desk at a retail store, I often deal with angry, middle-aged costumers who I imagine to be former beatniks from a lost era. As they raise their voices, curse, and throw the occasional DVD, I imagine that I could simply put up my hand and make a peace sign, and they would become nostalgic for the days of their youth: the days where life was about equality, love, and treating others the way you want to be treated. I have been tempted by many customers to whip out my peace-wielding digits, but I’m not sure my bosses would appreciate my, perhaps overly pacifistic, fantasy as much as I.
Despite my belief in the power of the peace sign, I realize that “giving peace” will not be the end-all to violence in the world; it will not stop gangs from forming, or countries from hiding weapons; it will not render guns useless, or solve the national health-care crisis. It will, however, be a glimmering symbol of hope and love in a generation that has grown up in nothing but war. It will show, despite the violence in the world, there is kindness and individuals who care. Each time I leave a room, I will “give peace” to all those present: young and old; black, white, Hispanic, and Asian; rich or poor; college-grad or high school dropout. I will do this for one simple reason: I believe in the peace sign.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.