Joan - Austin, Texas
Entered on March 19, 2009
Age Group: 65+
Themes: peace

I believe in the possibility of peace. I grew up during the second world war on both sides of the lines in China where my parents worked in university medical schools. We lived near hospitals as my father was radiologist and surgeon, so I knew many sick and wounded who came for care and shelter.

During invasion in the north and military occupation, I felt afraid. We sewed an American flag to carry for safe passage through lines of soldiers on our way to school. It was a proud flag, with thirteen red-and-white stripes. There was only space for thirty-six lovingly cut stars, which I thought looked as beautiful as white lotus buds floating across blue water.

Later, we refugeed west to free territory and air raids were frequent. Yet I felt safe within my family. Our parents told my brother and me: “Words are stronger than guns.” So I believed in the possibility of peace … someday. When I was ten years old I tried to further that peace with words by writing a letter to a United States senator.* I asked him, please, help stop sending war materials to Asia: “I live in China so I understand. My father is a doctor. He takes scrap iron out of women and children.”

When I came to America after the war, I visited a library and found my letter printed in the Congressional Record.* Rereading it, I wept again for my beloved brother and friend who died soon after it was written. I felt deep loss and grief from the violence of war and knew there must be more effective ways to resolve conflicts between people and countries. Because I believe in the possibility of peace, I taught school for many years. Literacy helps empower creative alternatives and solutions. When I read and write I weigh issues in terms of diplomacy and peace.

Today, so many years and wars later, I still believe in the possibility of peace.

The flag on my wall, stitched long ago, with lovingly cut stars as beautiful as white lotus buds floating across blue water, reminds me: “Words are stronger than guns.”

I know nations have warred throughout history. However, that’s become a false option for survival on our rare and fragile planet. War, as I witness it, is expensive in blood and resources, greedy and destructive to life and morality. There’s no justice in it, for how can I give Earth planted with mines to our children? War kills indiscriminately. It violates aggressor and victim alike. I cannot afford war when I need to focus my time, heart, and attention on peace. I think people able to explore space, unlock DNA, and inspire the arts, will also have the imaginative intelligence to study and solve the problem of war. That is why I believe in the possibility of peace.


* [Letter to Senator Schwellenbach, June 1940, 76th Congress, 3rd Session, Volume 86, Part 16 of Appendix to the Congressional Record, page 4048.]