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Scariness all year long

Symbols of war and violence are common; not so symbols of peace

By Carolyn Pogue

A Globe and Mail columnist recently mused that Hallowe’en is increasingly tame. She argued that it’s alright to scare kids on Oct. 31 because it’s all part of childhood. But I think that kids are being scared 24/7 — even little ones know about school lock downs, climate change, wars, pollution and the recent deaths of Canadian soldiers on home soil. These days, it seems that Hallowe’en scariness lasts all year long.

Now more than ever, we need to be bold, vocal and visible in our work for peace and justice. We know better stories than the ones in the media. Surely, we believe in a better world that is slower, more mindful and compassionate. We could be as creative and energetic about celebrating International Day of the Child, International Day to Eradicate Poverty and International Peace Day, for example, as we are about celebrating Hallowe’en, couldn't we?

At the dinner table with family members last week, the talk turned to the Ottawa shooter and to Laura, a family friend who lives in the capital. Laura’s little girl attends Day Care on Parliament Hill. As we dined, mother and daughter were safe but still under lock down.

The dinner conversation was calm; there were no graphic details, raised voices or anything like that. I had been away and was hearing the news at the same time as two children at the table. And I could hardly fathom that the kids would have this story as part of their childhood landscape. As I sat there, I had a sudden flash of memory: when I was a kid, I was taught to hide under my desk in the event of a nuclear attack. I suppose I’ve been responding to that fearful practice ever since.  

Days later, I made peace jewelry and fortune cookies with the children. We discussed how we can add more peace to the world whenever we hear about scary or violent things. There are lots of ways to do that. (Just ask a child if you forget.) I believe that kids and others need to learn ways to process violent stories. And we need peace stories to be a part of our spiritual landscapes.

Unlike violence, peace doesn’t make it into many ordinary conversations. Symbols of war and violence are common; not so symbols of peace. (Go ahead. Spend a day looking for peace signs in your community or in the media.) As a result, violence is becoming increasingly “normal.”  

There will always be personal and global conflict; people with an axe to grind; or those who are mentally unstable and violent. But I'm glad that there is a Canadian conversation about this — one that is above knee-jerk level. Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, for example, has asked us to slow down and think before crying out in terror.

As usual, on Remembrance Day, I will wear a red poppy for soldiers, along with a white poppy for journalists, children, teachers and peacemakers (Let us remember peace on this day, too.).

After all, I’d like to return to a time when scariness was reserved for a single night of the year.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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