Soldiers of Peace: How To Wield the Weapon of Nonviolence With Maximum Force
A book by Paul K. Chappell
Author and prominent peace educator Paul Chappell observed that he had 12 years of math through calculus II, and yet uses only a fraction of his math skills in daily life. He graduated from high school, however, illiterate in peace, literacy he desperately needed and has dedicated his life to cultivating, disseminating and incorporating into educational curricula.
The author’s childhood was filled with trauma. As a mixed race, Korean/African-American/white child growing up in Alabama, he felt himself a racial outcast. By high school, as he readily admits, he was full of rage. But in an act of survival at the age of 19, he made a solemn commitment to transform himself. He reflects with irony and regret that “the education system had not given me a single hour of training to help me understand the nature of rage. … In fact, much of what I learned in school taught me to suppress my empathy and conscience and to view purpose in the narrow context of accumulating material wealth.”
What we are offered in Chappell’s most recent book, “Soldiers of Peace,” is a strategic and skillful path to radical empathy with fellow humans, within community and in society. It is the sixth in his seven-book series, “The Road to Peace,” a trove of insight and strategy for peace activism burnished by wisdom and compassion.
Chappell writes with a singular style shaped by the directness of his engineering and military training at West Point, fused with imaginative metaphor and lessons drawn from Greek mythology and early classics. “Soldiers of Peace” is organized around a guiding constellation of stars: struggle, training, truth and strategy.
Waging peace is never passive, he writes – it is an unremitting quest in which we humans struggle against “violence, trauma and injustice in our personal lives, communities and throughout the world.” Otherwise, to paraphrase Edmund Burke, evil triumphs when good people do nothing. Peace is achieved only when strategic struggle for social, economic and political justice is fueled by “purpose, meaning, understanding, justice and gentleness.”
Training in peace literacy is as crucial as learning reading, writing and mathematics, and it cannot be left only to parents, Chappell cautions. Schools must teach the history of strategic campaigns that won civil rights and women’s rights; the arts of listening, asking questions to achieve clarity and understanding, cultivating empathy and mutual communication; the skills of disciplined resolution of conflict, and recognizing verbal and advertising manipulation. As Gandhi avowed, “If peace schooling were taken as seriously as military schooling, our world would be a much different place.” Therein lies the core message of this book.
The chapter on the star of strategy is the most complex and crowns the book. “Waging peace,” Chappell writes, “gave me a strategy for living that rage…