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Is it time to establish a U.S. Department of Peace?

Each year over 1,500 American women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Each year the U.S. has over 16,000 cases of murder and non-negligent manslaughter and more than 90,000 reported cases of rape. The cost of incarceration is over $30,000 per person per year and we currently have over 2 million people locked away in our prisons – more per capita than any other nation. In many communities, our nation’s school administrators attempt to control youth violence by establishing “weapons free zones”, hiring police to monitor the halls, and installing metal detectors. School lock-down procedures are in-place and limited access rules are enforced. Valuable tax dollars are sucked up in this effort to maintain safe schools – having never purchased a book, a computer, a musical instrument or microscope.

Our nation designs, manufactures, sells, uses and directs the use of more military weapons and armaments than does any other nation. We own more personal weapons than do the citizens of any other country. We are a violent nation and our national economy is dependent, at many levels, on the continuation of violence.

In their early years, our children are taught to share their belongings, to play fair and to solve their differences by negotiation rather than biting and hitting. They are taught to see beyond skin color and to honor each others differences and limitations. But, they also absorb the average daily discourse, “I could just kill her for saying that” and “Our team slaughtered those guys!” and “We’ll get the bad guys,” and the latest one, “We’ll use the nuclear option to block their plan to filibuster.” From preteen years on up we watch violent movies and television shows and play video games that imitate all manner of violence. Our highschoolers hear recruiter’s promises of prestige, bonus pay, future education benefits and travel opportunities if only they will enlist in the military (and run the risk of being required to kill teenagers, adults and babies in some other country). Our military academies teach “the art of war.”

Violence has not brought us peace; it has not kept us safe from terrorism, school shootings, gangs, domestic violence, homelessness, child abuse, elder abuse or poverty.

Violence has caused us to be fearful of and alienated from many of our neighbors, it has cost us millions/billions of dollars in property damage, incarceration and policing. Violence touches each of us as it rips and tears at our communities, the nation and the world.

A Democrat has a better idea.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) of Ohio first introduced the bill calling for the creation of a federal Department of Peace in April, 2003. The legislation has been steadily gaining support and will be presented to Congress in September, 2005.

So, what would a U.S. Department of Peace look like? What would it do for us? What would it cost us?

1. The Department of Peace would develop and administer programs to prevent and resolve issues of domestic and school violence, mistreatment of the elderly and cultural violence. Abroad, it would research, analyze foreign policy and make recommendations to the President on how to address the underlying causes of a situation before violence begins.

2. The Department of Peace would address post-conflict reconstruction in war-torn countries and enlist proven strategies to rectify the underlying causes of violent conflicts.

3. Through its Office of Peace Education, the Department of Peace would work with educators in schools and universities to give our children and young people the skills needed for peaceful resolution of problems and conflicts.

4. A Peace Academy is one of the pillars of the Department of Peace legislation. Modeled after the military service academies, the Peace Academy would provide four years of instruction in peace education and train students to become conflict specialists who would go into communities in this country and the world to help ameliorate violence in its earliest stages.

5. With innovative new programs and by supporting existing programs that are already making positive contributions to peaceful conflict resolution, the Department of Peace would systematically work to eliminate the root causes of violence.

6. The budget for the Department of Peace suggested in the legislation is 2% of the annual defense budget.

A Democrat has started the ball rolling. We Democrats need to ask ourselves – do we have the will, the desire, the motivation to take this idea and run with it? To see that this legislation is successful and that our Department of Peace is established? Shall we lead the nation, change the status quo and move away from the violence that breaks hearts and perpetuates more violence? Shall we beat the swords into plowshares and learn how to make peace by employing non-violent methods?

Please click on this website’s link to The Peace Alliance or contact me to get involved in this work. This is for all of us, for the future of our country and for the future of our world.

In Peace

Nancy Jarmin

4th Congressional District Chair
The Peace Alliance

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