Peace in our time?

In this unsettling and uncertain time, amid wars and rumors of war, Xpress has chosen to consider its estranged sibling, peace. How do we find it? How do we make it? How do we embody it in our own lives?

By most accounts, the Bush administration is on the verge of waging war in Iraq. Already, the effects of this global crisis ripple through the fabric of our lives. The Asheville Fire Department has been publicly training for emergency response in possible terrorist scenarios. Buncombe County Emergency Management personnel and Asheville Transit System drivers are taught how to cope with saboteurs and gunmen. And U.S. military personnel based in North Carolina are being deployed throughout the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the WNC Peace Coalition, which drew more than 300 participants to a Dec. 7 rally in Pritchard Park, now links an activist network of more than 600 citizens. The Coalition expects about one fourth of that number will board buses for the next major anti-war rally in Washington, DC, on Jan.17-18. (For more information call the Coalition at 271-0022.)

Faced with daily news concerning the rationale for war, Xpress talked to members of the WNC community about peace. For if war merits critical examination and analysis, surely peace does as well. To begin with, we asked a broad cross section of citizens, “How do you find peace?” Their answers, presented below, reflect the diversity we encounter every day in these mountains.

To explore the idea in more depth, Xpress reporters also talked to local people with a variety of perspectives: institutional peacemakers at The Mediation Center and The Family Visitation Center; men who have served in the military; a Quaker and an anti-war activist; an Asheville Jew who’s reaching out to Palestinians; and women in prison who have had to confront the implications of their own unpeaceful lives.

It may be true, as Hermann Goering observed at Nuremberg, that “It is always a simple matter to drag the people along… [simply] tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism.” But our Constitution reserves sovereignty to the people, whose voices and votes hold sway. In this special section — part news, part commentary, part pithy bits of wisdom old and new, we invite our readers to join us in considering this most timely of questions.

“How do you find peace?”

“Don’t go lookin’ for trouble, that’s all. Mind your own business.”

— Frank Byrne, 88, Hendersonville, retiree

“The place I find peace is within my own spirit. … The means is by letting go of all expectations, good or bad, and recommitting myself to hope and to gratitude. … Between hope and gratitude, there is nowhere without peace. I am most reminded of that when I’m in the woods. … Somehow, the eternity of everything in nature is very reassuring.”

— Tess Johnson, a Madison County transplant who describes herself as a “Mars hellion.”

“Focusing on my breath. Peace comes from the breath — you breathe your whole life, [but] how many times have you actually focused on breathing? Like the space in between the breaths, that’s peace — between the inhale and the exhale.”

— Michael Rush, 28, Black Mountain, “an old, kind soul”

“A beer and a good game of pool. And a buck that I can bet with.”

— Sara Gritsavage, 25, Hendersonville, manager of Black Bear Coffee Co.

“Through my faith … and through the involvement with and the support of my church, my church family. … I also find a great sense of peace being outside, being completely away from civilization out in the wilderness. …

“I think I also find peace through being however much of a social activist I am. My involvement in community activities, community efforts … at least gives me the satisfaction that I’ve done a little of whatever part I can do.”

— Tyrone Greenlee, 40-something, Asheville, administrative coordinator for New Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church

“A nice book I can disappear into.”

— Osman Fadil, 37, Hendersonville, restaurateur

“I would say that I find peace in the Lord. I find peace, like, through my peers and through my parents, knowing that if I ever get mad or something that they’ll be there for me and that I can cool out. I find peace with people, through a lot of things. … I really find it through church, though, always praying and stuff.”

— Amanda Fruster, 18, Asheville High School senior

“By praying — regularly and continuously. Every day, not just during the holidays.”

— Ethel Hamlin, 63, Hendersonville, staff member in the children’s section of the Hendersonville Public Library

“I live out of town. I find it by coming back to the place I grew up, back to my family and friends.”

— Michael Stevenson, 36, Asheville native who currently resides in McMinnville, Ore., and who describes himself as “a pretty nice person”

“By not thinking about yourself for a change. That’s my own little personal technique … being of service.”

— Kristin Commerford, 30, an Asheville resident who describes herself as “open-minded”

“Honoring my emotions. Respecting mine and other people’s boundaries. Finding joy in small activities and events during the day. And random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty — whatever it is the bumper sticker says.”

— Doug (no last name given), 55, Swannanoa, ex-military

“I find peace by actively looking for [it] on a daily basis. I firmly believe I can find anything I’m looking for on this planet, peace being one of those things. You can find fault, you can find anger, you can find love, you can find beauty … if you look for it. Finding peace is just a matter of looking for it … and I have to look for the positive, I have to look for what’s right and what’s wrong.”

— Jason Sutphin, 34, Black Mountain, “a resident of the planet Earth, trying to be a human being”


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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