Category Archives: Gun Control

Peace – The Exhibition

Peace – The Exhibition                                                         Ian Prattis

It is a long and winding road that led to the peace exhibition at the Canadian War Museum, which will run to January 5, 2014. The initial conversation opened a decade ago with Physicians for Global Survival, the Quakers – supported by Friends for Peace – pitching to the museum director the idea of Canadian soldiers going to war to enable peace for their families. The conversation continued with the Canadian Department of Peace group taking a lead role. They found support in a historian who liked the basic idea. The curator of “Peace – The Exhibition” is Dr. Amber Lloydlangsten and she and her team did a terrific job putting it together with very diverse themes.

The exhibition is impressive and extensive with many surprises. A clock from the destruction of Hiroshima, a blue beret from the first UN peacekeeping mission, a World War I Victoria Cross medal awarded to a Canadian stretcher bearer to mention only a few.

There is a station where you can make your own Peace Button – great attraction for kids. Also an art gallery of peace with a tour to see how art reflects the themes of the exhibit. A highlight for me was the attention paid to the Great Peace Law of the Iroquois Confederacy. How it came about and how it is relevant to the present day negotiation between aboriginal peoples and Canadian Institutions.  Treaty 7 provides an elaborate case study. The debate is opened up about Canada’s role as a peace keeping nation with a chart showing different options and outcomes.  The mantle that Canada has worn since Lester Pearson’s days has been diminished since Mr. Harper became Prime Minister of Canada. Do we want a change? That is the question raised in a very challenging way. War is not sanitized, neither is the protest movement nor the peace keeping role. We see how Canadians throughout their history have negotiated, organized and intervened for peace. Interactive stations about Haiti, Afghanistan, the Sudan and more, plus play stations for children to grasp the issues are there to encourage them to think and reflect what they want to see in a future Canada.

I hope teachers make this exhibit a must see locale for school trips. The Peace Exhibition is very well put together. I cannot think of any War Museum in the world that has such an emphasis on peace processes. Peace is a vital part of the story of Canada and it is still evolving and diverse. I encourage everyone to pay a visit – and take children. A Peace Button awaits them!

Dead Children

Dead Children                                                                                                Ian Prattis

Published in Tone Magazine, Ottawa, December 2012

I want to talk to you about children who are no longer here. They are dead. Twenty children gunned down at an elementary school in Newton, CT. Children killed as collateral damage in Gaza, Israel, Syria, Congo, Afghanistan and in world-wide violence. We are all grieving parents to the world. The question we all face is – What Now?

In the face of grief we must feel it deeply, be hurt by it, taking time to feel the pain of the tragedy. Then come through, determined to make a difference. STOP: REASSESS: ENTER THE BODHISATTVA. Stopping requires calling in the support of wise friends, counselors and Sangha so we can begin to see clearly and give ourselves the chance to find ourselves. Stillness is needed, not social media distraction – for we now have to look for a new direction and leadership. To reassess the 21st century, we must look deeply at the factors involved in the Newton, CT massacre. We will see a complex, intertwined tapestry with the easy availability of guns and drugs, compounded by societal tolerance of violence through the worst that cyberspace and Hollywood have to offer. Plus the very serious common denominator shared by the killers stretching back to the Columbine massacre. This is the factor of mental illness in pre-adult white males who are caught in an identity trap that they escape from through violence and murder. This is their five minutes of fame that enables them to be remembered. They occupy a toxic landscape of “not love”, “not connected.” And this is what requires the attention of our mindfulness.  How do we begin?

The Christmas season has passed, yet we can begin there with a small reassessment that all of us can do. We examine our habit energies around gift giving and learn to give gifts that really make a difference. Begin by participating less in the expected excess of mindless consumerism of Christmas buying. I have taken that small step and no longer buy Christmas gifts. Instead, present donations and gift certificates in the name of family and friends to provide education for a girl in Afghanistan, rebuild forests in Haiti, provide literacy packs and mosquito nets where most needed. This then leads to the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of crisis, for it is already within us. That gift is Freedom and it involves stepping firmly onto the Bodhisattva path made clear by the Buddha and other great teachers.

It is time for the Bodhisattva to enter the 21st century as a paradigm and archetype for individual and collective action. This enables us to be rooted in our own sovereignty and deeply transform ourselves and our civilization. We nurture this paradigm by cultivating two aspects that presently lie dormant within us. The first aspect is Interbeing – knowing that we interconnect with everything – the earth, oceans, forests and mountains, all species and most of all – with all people. Interbeing creates harmony and unity and destroys the ego. The second aspect is Non-discrimination, which carries the energy of compassion, and this combination threatens selfishness. Taken together – these buried aspects, once they manifest from within us, open pathways and bridges to build a better world.

How do we do this? We cultivate the energies of transformation – Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight. Always – at every opportunity we bring Interbeing and Non-Discrimination to the forefront of our daily lives. In this way we shape the future of the 21st century as we begin to live differently – here and now. We are not intimidated by present crises. We are certainly shocked and hurt by such circumstances but are in fact much stronger than we think. Enter the Bodhisattva is the guiding paradigm for our lives. I allude to Bruce Lee’s classic – Enter the Dragon – which brings the fierceness of the warrior to the fore and the determination of a saint to overcome tragedy and set a new course. It takes practice, skillfulness and creative vision – but we are equal to the task. Nelson Mandela thought so. His 1994 inaugural speech laid out the territory clearly when he opened with:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us….

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.