In the early 1990s when I was working at the Hungry Horse News, a huge semi-truck came through Columbia Falls and ripped away the “Peace” sign tethered between two light poles on U.S. 2, carrying the town’s banner with it down the road.
I wrote a story about the sign damage with this headline: “Where on earth is city’s peace?” The reason I remember it is because the newspaper publisher at the time commented how clever my headline was. I don’t remember if the sign was returned to Columbia Falls that year, or whether the town went without its tangible peace.
That old headline has been running through my head all week, and on this Christmas Day I continue to wonder, where on earth is our peace?
I don’t have to remind any of you how wild, and frankly how divisive this year has been, politically, religiously, socially... And the world headlines are daunting to one’s spirit — “Suspect in Berlin market attack shot dead,” “Syrian military retakes control of Aleppo,” “Trump, Putin want to boost nuclear capability...”
There has always been war. There has always been hatred. There has always been conflict among people. So why does it seem to me to be so much worse this year?
Perhaps it’s because I’ve had to write about an ugliness that descended upon Whitefish last week when neo-Nazis unleashed an internet harassment campaign against Whitefish businesses, its Jewish community and the Love Lives Here group over the perceived treatment of white nationalist Richard Spencer’s mother. It’s sad to have to explain to older readers what “trolling,” or online bullying is.
And no matter how objective I think my reporting is, there are critics on both sides who don’t hesitate to weigh in. In journalism, you’re often damned if you do and damned if you don’t write something on any given subject.
But my thoughts today are not about what I might have to endure. It’s about peace on a global level, and imagining whether it can ever happen. I know what the Bible tells me was promised with the birth of Jesus some 2,000 years ago. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
It’s interesting that newer Bible translations have altered that verse to read “peace on earth among men with whom He is pleased.” I’m not sure how God could be pleased at all with all the hate and dissent that’s so pervasive throughout the world. Perhaps that’s why peace eludes us.
Peace on earth by any measure seems a tall order, so I strive to find pockets of peace in my life. It can be something as simple as being transformed by a familiar Christmas carol sung with passion by a brilliant vocalist, or doing something extra special for a friend.
Another flashback I had this week was being thrust on stage at our country church in Minnesota when I was in the seventh grade to be part of a trio who sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth” during the Christmas season. The Vietnam War was raging, there was an enormous amount of racial unrest in America and Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy had been shot and killed that year. Maybe our choir director had chosen that song for a lot of reasons beyond the Christmas message.
I want to share a verse of that song that has stayed with me over so many decades:
“Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.
With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment and live each moment with peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
My wish for each of you today is peace, whether in silent snippets enjoyed in the quiet of the evening or among the throngs of family members who have gathered from far and wide.
Merry Christmas, and peace be with you.
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.