Saturday, December 13, 1997
Respond to violence: Teach peace

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Early last Saturday, in the space of a moment, evil won out over good. Two fine police officers died, and this city was submerged in darkness.

All week, we Cincinnatians have searched for an act or word that would demonstrate our love for the families, and gratitude to those who give their time, and sometimes their lives, to keep the rest of us safe.

We want desperately to even the score, to re-balance the world, in favor of good. We want life to flow back to us, and black tape to never transect another silver badge.

But that will take hard work, the hardest of work, and we all know it. It is one thing to mourn. It is another to make the changes that might save a police officer's life.

No single, grand gesture can do it. The world does not operate that way. We have already tried sending in our heroes. But Specialist Jeter and Officer Pope did not come back to us.

What we have learned, in this last terrible week, is that the safety of this community takes the efforts of us all.

The strongest control

Bullet-proof vests don't stop evil. Neither do arrest warrants. The only control that is powerful enough to counter it is the most difficult sort, self-control.

Alonzo Davenport, caught in conflict, had only a moment to decide how to react. He chose violence. It was a response he had chosen before.

We see the same thing around us. Motorists who react to a perceived slight by using vehicles as weapons. Husbands who end arguments with their fists. Children who settle battles with bullets.

Our response, as a community, has been to call in the police. They have been our last line of defense, and our first, and all too often, the only one between.

We have done much the same with teachers, and social workers, and sometimes clergy. Pushing them to dole out punishments or temporary salves while we shout directions from the sidelines.

But the human condition does not improve that way.

We don't talk much about peace any more, and nonviolence is sort of passe. But last week, as two of our protectors lay dying, the words held a new power and sweetness.

You can't live peacefully if you don't teach peace. Violence is some people's first reaction because they have been taught no others.

All across America, children are growing up thinking with their fists. Their parents make their wishes known by a shake or a slap. Words are for sissies.

And then we, on the sidelines, cluck at school suspension numbers and crime reports. And we second-guess police officers.

And then we bury them.

By human hands

Many fine memorials have been established in the names of the officers, but there is room for one more.

For a number of years, in small efforts across the city, groups have started programs that teach people to settle disputes without violence. Some call it conflict resolution, mediation, dispute management. At heart, it is teaching peace.

It has never received the attention it deserves. Perhaps it doesn't fit the American mold of bold action and bravura. But it is important work nevertheless. Fundamental work, that holds a society together.

So let us give something more, in the names of Officer Pope and Spc. Jeter, and in the name of peace.

Let us give a donation and a few hours of our time to benefit one of the local groups teaching peace. The money would be helpful; the time, invaluable.

Give to any group you like, but do consider these: The Center for Peace Education, 103 William Howard Taft, Cincinnati 45219; or Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, 215 E. 14th St., Cincinnati 45210.

Both do training. Next summer, they will hold their second Peace Camp, to teach young people how to resolve conflicts and avoid violence.

I will be at Peace Camp in June, helping out in honor of two fine human beings who died in the pursuit of decency and goodness. Join me.

Violence comes by human hands. So does peace.


Krista Ramsey's column appears on Saturdays. Write her at 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati 45202.