Father's Day, Peace, and Masculinity

By David Swanson

The most creative, energetic, and effective peace activists in the United States right now are women organized explicitly as “CODE PINK: Women for Peace.” While CODE PINK welcomes the participation of men (and when I’m in DC I stay at the CODE PINK house), the group is organized around the idea that women have a special role to play in working for peace. So, every once in a while I ask a bunch of Code Pinkers “Why don’t we have a group of Men for Peace?”

The answers almost always focus on the idea that we DO have groups of Men for Peace. A typical response is “We do, it’s called Veterans for Peace,” or “We do, IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War).” There’s truth to those responses. Those groups are dominated by men, even though IVAW is now officially led by a woman. But the vast majority of men in the United States cannot join veterans groups, because we are not veterans. Other peace groups may be dominated by men as well, although United for Peace and Justice is led by a woman and employs only a woman as a lobbyist, and most – but by no means all – other peace groups have women in prominent positions. And, of course, the most well-known peace activist in the United States by far is a woman. Yet, even in groups dominated by men there is no talk of working for peace specifically as men, in a male way.

Mother’s Day originated as an action for peace and still very much is. Father’s Day began as an imitation of Mother’s Day, and it took a woman to have the idea. One doesn’t hear much about peace on Father’s Day. An organization raising money for Iraqis injured by the current invasion and occupation is using Father’s Day to raise money for a boy whose father has tried to protect him in Fallujah. http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/23532 But Father’s Day is not a central focus of the peace movement in the United States. And I don’t think the contrast with Mother’s Day is simply due to the unique creativity of CODE PINK or the talents and media stardom of Cindy Sheehan, Tina Richards and other military mothers. I think men aren’t pulling their own weight, due to a lack of courage – specifically the courage to be called cowards. And I think men have a special duty to do so, because of another area that men clearly dominate: warmongering.

But what would men for peace look like? Well, very much like women for peace. Traditionally male qualities that seem better suited to war would be rejected. But there are plenty of traditionally female qualities rejected by women peace activists. And, just as motherhood is a major theme in female peace activism, so should fatherhood be for men. And the video from Fallujah linked to above gets this exactly right, by extending our concern for fathers’ love of their children to include the story of an Iraqi father and child.

Developing the idea of masculine peace might help not only recruit activists in opposition to the current occupation of Iraq, but also shift American politics away from militarism in the future. American men already favor such a shift, although not as strongly as women do. But public office holders tend to lag behind – in part, I think, because they (including women to some extent) are advised to appear macho. We elect war veterans in hopes that their established machismo will provide them the space they need to oppose a particular war. Rarely do we stop to consider the wisdom of electing current war opponents who have had the understanding to oppose past aggressive wars as well.

This Father’s Day, let us honor the men who have cared for us and for others, and the men who have worked hard and courageously for peace. Let us condemn the actions of men who have sent children (usually other men’s children) to war. Let’s shun them from the ranks of masculinity. Let’s go so far as to drop participation in war from the realm of admirable male behavior. Real men, let us tell each other, do not kill. Being a father is what actually requires balls.

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