Sunday, August 01, 1999

Bell's bid for peace harder than it may sound




BY KAREN SAMPLES
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Well, folks, it will be presented today: the big bell that will save the world.

        Forget Madeleine Albright, the Dalai Lama, Mister Rogers and the rest. We have the world's largest swinging bell, which reached the BB Riverboats dock in Covington early Saturday after a long journey by river from New Orleans.

        Eventually it will hang in the middle of Newport. The idea is to ring this thing and inspire people to write and talk about peace. When that happens, governments and nations will follow, and eventually, voila — a worldwide happy fest.

        This is how Wayne Carlisle sees it, anyway. He's the Newport businessman paying for this leap of faith, and his earnestness is something to behold.

        Details about the bell — how often it will ring, for in stance — are yet to come. But of this much, the promotional video is sure: “When the peace bell rings with a powerful resonance, the world ... will ... listen.”

        The sooner the better. Civil wars rage in Angola, Somalia, the Sudan and Liberia. There's the Kosovo conflict and the possibility of more genocide in Rwanda, eastern Zaire and Burundi. Trouble also brews in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, the Congo, Burma and Sri Lanka, says the World Peace Foundation.

        Whew. Big list. Makes me wonder what's gotten into Mr. Carlisle. Surely there are more effective ways to spend your millions. What about food for the poor or homes for those left stranded by all these wars?

        I intended to go on questioning Mr. Carlisle's grip on reality — until I checked out other people's ideas for world peace.

        On the Internet, one Web site recommends global change through the updating of cliches. For instance, “Kill two birds with one stone,” would become, “Set two birds free with one hand.”

        Right. That'll work in Sri Lanka.

        I also found some suggestions from kids in Princeton, N.J. These were pretty good.

        “Have a big heart,” one 4-year-old said.

        “Protect all babies,” of fered another.

        “Don't eat your family,” a 9-year-old suggested.

        At the other extreme, the scholarly International Journal of World Peace apparently advocates putting aggressors to sleep with boring articles.

        Similarly, the World Peace Foundation brings professors together for conferences about “the salience of political culture” and the like.

        Among these contenders, the bell has a certain appeal. It's simple yet solid, and Mr. Carlisle doesn't appear to have profit in mind. He's not even putting his name on the bell.

        I consulted Betty Gamble, a Methodist minister from Kentucky who now lives in New York. She travels around the world, meeting with people of other faiths and helping her own church work through internal squabbles.

        The Rev. Ms. Gamble's practical side tells her there are better uses for Mr. Carlisle's money. She likes the idea of conflict-resolution classes in every school, for instance.

        Then again, there is something about the sound of a bell that brings people together, the Rev. Ms. Gamble says. In many religions, bells call the faithful to prayer, funerals, special celebrations. They also remind a nation's people of the history that binds them.

        In Israel, Holocaust victims are memorialized once a year with the nationwide sounding of a siren. All motion stops; even motorists get out of their cars to listen.

        At the Kentucky Haus gift shop in Newport, I met a man who thinks bells are beautiful. He turned out to be the Rev. Pat Sheridan, on his day off from a Cincinnati church.

        I asked whether peace could be accomplished by a big bell in Northern Kentucky. Father Sheridan thought for a moment. He knew I was skeptical. Finally, he responded with a question: How else might people be given “a heart that loves”?

        That is the mystery. I don't know. Maybe you ring a big bell.

        The innocence of the gesture reminds me just how elusive peace has been. Nothing else seems to be working.

        We might as well give it a try.

Karen Samples is The Enquirer's Kentucky columnist. Her column appears on Sundays and Thursdays in The Kentucky Enquirer. She can be reached at 578-5584 or email her at ksamples@enquirer.com

SAMPLES ARCHIVE