If you’re one who feels that we’ve beat this whole Peace Sign issue to death and it’s time to move on, I get that. I feel that a bit myself. But as is often the case debating one issue can bring deeper more fundamental issues to the surface and those are worth discussing, as well. So stick with me here for just a moment as we take this opportunity to discuss one such issue…
One of the things that stood out to me when reading some of the comments about our last few blogs about the Peace sign was how many of those who opposed our use of the Peace sign seemed to completely ignore the idea behind the sign and why we had it on our site, and focused simply on the surface issue of whether or not it was offensive to a handful of Vets. [And let me be clear – I do not say “handful” to be flip. I watch our numbers fairly closely, and the number of Vets who have voiced opposition to the sign compared to those who have not had an issue with it is extremely small.] Several people argued that if the symbol offended any Vets at all we should pull it from our site – regardless of the purpose behind it. They offered no alternative solutions, no new ideas that would achieve the same result in a different package – just “scrap it”, intended message and all.
The irony is that this is exactly the kind of black and white, my way or the highway thinking that created the tension around the sign in the first place. The anti-war protestors of the Vietnam era wanted only one thing: bring the troops home, and let the chips fall where they may. They didn’t care what the ramifications were. They had no alternative solutions to offer government officials that would address their concerns about the spread of communism in Southeast Asia without war. All they cared about was ending the war, and thus they created conflict in their own house. Many feel that in doing so they undermined the war effort, aided our enemies, and thus endangered our service members. For some Vietnam Vets, that is what the Peace sign represents – not peace itself.
One of the key aspects of what we’re calling Responsible Peace is in shifting to an and/both mentality as opposed to an either/or mentality: the idea that we can support our Troops and support Peace. Being productive as opposed to destructive or divisive in this environment requires a willingness to see, acknowledge, and address others’ concerns in order to find compromise wherein they will be willing to address yours. Compromise often requires an ability and willingness to focus on the “what” that you really want – not the surface details, but what is at the root of what you really want -- and to open your mind to “how” you might get what you want in such a way that allows your “opponent” to get what they want, as well.
In this case, we realize that some Vets are offended by the Peace sign due to their own unique experiences with it. And, again, it is not our intention to be disrespectful or to offend those Vets. It is our intention – what we really want – to support those Vets and to do everything in our power to ensure that future service members do not have the same experience that Vietnam Vets did. And we can see no greater way to support a service member than to do what we can to prevent sending them into battle in the future.
Part of the “how” for us in communicating that message is in combining the power of the Peace symbol with our logo, communicating the duality of our message -- the idea of supporting Peace as a means of supporting those who serve. As with most things in life, there is a cost/benefit analysis here in that, while that symbol may carry some bad connotations for a small number of Vietnam Vets, for hundreds of millions of people the world over the Peace sign simply means Peace. We have made the conscious and deliberate choice to risk offending a few in order to connect with and engage the many. Ideally, we would prefer not to offend anyone – especially Vets. But it is a risk we are willing to take in order to propagate a new social paradigm. We hope that any Vietnam Vets who are offended by the sign itself will choose to focus on the intent behind the message, and not on the package it comes in – to allow us the concession of using a symbol that holds a different connotation for them than it does for us for the benefit of getting what we all want, which is to support, protect, and defend those who serve as they do for us.
If we could all apply this sort of thinking on a more global scale – respect, understanding of intent, compromise -- would we ever go to war again? Just something to think about…