Commentary: A U.S. Dept. of Peace?

Elizabeth and Dennis Kucinich.
Elizabeth and Dennis Kucinich. Jeff Blake / MCT

Barack Obama's election as president has breathed life into efforts for a U.S. Department of Peace and Nonviolence.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich first proposed the Cabinet-level post in July 2001 – two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. He had seen too much violence worldwide and wanted to create a platform in the executive branch to promote alternative ways to resolve conflicts.

People too quickly turn to violence and war. Kucinich says a department of peace would give people better tools.

"Peace is not some airy, fairy notion," said Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat and past presidential candidate whose bill embodies the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi and Jesus Christ. "It's an active presence of love, mutuality and understanding."

The bill had no chance of advancing when George W. Bush was president, Republicans controlled Congress, and the U.S. was newly embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The wars drag on, along with billions of dollars wasted on violence.

Obama gives people long-awaited hope that this country can do better, said John Parker, media coordinator with the Peace Alliance in Washington, D.C. He sees a resurgence of interest in Peace Alliance work on Capitol Hill.

Parker said the peace department would have a $10 billion budget. About 85 percent of the money would go to reduce violence in the United States, which annually costs $64.7 billion in lost productivity.

Wars in the 20th century claimed more than 100 million lives, an incredible waste of human talent and potential.

Kucinich said, "Peace is practical; violence is quite impractical." He pointed to gun violence and a series of mass shootings in workplaces, homes and even churches.

People are unable to settle differences peacefully. "This is a very human condition, but it doesn't mean it needs to stay that way," Kucinich said.

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