This is the peace symbol ☮. Everyone’s seen it a million times. It’s been around almost sixty years. It is universally recognized as the symbol of social and political action in the cause of peace, but there’s far more to the symbol than that. At least there once was. In its youth, it galvanized a generation of Americans who dreamed a beautiful dream. My generation.
If you weren’t there you wouldn’t know. You may have read about it or seen it in the movies, but you had to be there to know. Nightly, on and around college campuses all across America there was a conspiracy in progress. In dorm rooms, apartment buildings, community centers, restaurants and every place where young people could gather we were plotting, planning and strategizing a cultural and economic revolution, a new America built upon a new paradigm.
The sun was setting on the Sixties, the Seventies were on the morning horizon, and we thought we knew how to do things better. In fact, we were sure of it. You know, I still think we did!
Oh, we weren’t of one mind. Far from it. But we were all agreed upon the fundamentals of the new world order we were sure we would create. We were determined not to play by the rules, and we were confident that we were building something different than the America we were about to inherit.
In our America, democracy would be real, social justice would be an everyday reality, and there would be a seat at the table for everyone. People would be valued for who they were and their talents appreciated and supported. Artists would practice their art, craftsmen would make wonderful things for the good of all, and both greed and want would disappear from the face of the earth forever.
As wonderful as all that sounds, that was not the best part. No, the best part was that peace would prevail. Peace, love, and respect for every living thing.
Okay, we were idealistic. Unrealistically so, I suppose. But, as I look back, I think that wasn’t such a bad thing. I wonder, too, just when it was that we turned away from our dream.
The peace symbol ☮ was everywhere. It was woven into the fabric of our philosophies, our theories, our strategies and our lives. It was, more than any other icon of the times, a symbol of the change we knew was about to come.
It never happened. The change never came. There is today no justice, and there is no peace, and we are to blame.
When I see the peace symbol now I am reminded of what it once symbolized and of what we once were. I think of street vendors with their colorful, beautiful and useful creations. I think of bakers, musicians, carpenters, silversmiths and artisans of every sort. I think of energetic and enterprising young people who brightened the street corners of Austin selling flowers and giving away smiles to rush hour motorists, and I think about the beautiful mixture of people of every color and background mingling together in the people’s marketplace.
I wonder sometimes if the peace symbol wasn’t really just a symbol of youth. A whimsical device to symbolize a dream that could never come true, a dream that lived only because life had not yet taught us better. A few of us never learned. A few of us could never turn loose.
Peace. Colorful, bright, happy and laughing peace. Tell someone you love them today. Make peace important again.