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Bob Koehler--Co-creating a Culture of Peace

by John K. Stoner  (January 29, 2018)

     In a column titled “The Illusion of Armed Salvation,"  Robert C. Koehler writes: (click here)

This time, the “the fire and the fury” of American mass murder erupted in church. Twenty-six people were killed, including children, one only 18 months old.  [Sutherland Springs, Texas]

How do we stroke their memory? How do we move forward? This is bigger than gun control. We should begin, I think, by envisioning a world beyond mass murder: a world where rage and hatred are not armed and, indeed, where our most volatile emotions can find release long before they become lethal. …

Envisioning a world without mass murder — which means a world without war, waged either collectively or privately (with both types of war generating handsome profits for the weapons industry) — means envisioning a world where guns are not a precondition for empowerment and us vs. them isn’t society’s default setting.

Guns are a symptom of society’s addiction to fear. And efforts to pass gun control legislation are continually on the political defensive, caught between the addicts and the profiteers.

And thus, as the Baltimore Sun noted: “If Kelley was eligible to buy a gun, it was only just barely. Yet even so he was able to buy not just any gun but a civilian version of a military assault rifle, designed not for hunting or self-defense but combat.”

Where does Robert Koehler get the idea of “envisioning a world beyond mass murder—which means a world without war, waged either collectively or privately?” 

Or an idea like “The Wisdom of Mass Salvation,” which must surely be an alternative to the weapons of mass destruction?  

Look at Bob here—a picture might be worth a thousand words. (click here)   What can I say—he looks like a man you can trust.  And what is that worth?

Here’s the way he starts the essay introducing himself:

Achievements and awards are the stuff of bios, but what seems more important to me is the fact that my great-nephew, Joey, then 5 years old, tore across the entire length of his parents’ kitchen with a look of wild glee in his eyes to say goodbye to me; I waited for him in a crouch, caught him full on, barely kept my balance. “Bye, Uncle Bob! I love you!” Wow, I think he meant it. All of which is to say, life itself is infinitely more precious than the masks we don or the monuments we build.

I’m at a point in my life where the resumé I’ve spent a lifetime carving feels like such a damn mask I just don’t want to wear it anymore.

What have I done that is equal to a child’s love? This question humbles me, and the only honest answer is that . . . I have tried to love beyond the edge of my own ego. I held my wife’s hand as she died. I hung in there with my teenage daughter after Barbara’s death, and — with the help of aunts, uncles, cousins, Grandma, countless friends — parented her toward her own luminous adulthood.

In the midst of all that, I managed to scribble down a few million words, a small percentage of which found their way into public view and generated enough positive response to make me think they contributed something of worth to our collective struggle for understanding. I call myself a writer.

 I like to think about what America would be like if our media were led, actually dominated, by people with that kind of attitude.  I invite you to think about that.  

For those who want a little more of Koehler now, read further from his bio:

I’ve won awards for my writing: from the National Newspaper Association, Suburban Newspapers of America, the Chicago Headline Club and other organizations that bestow blessings on journalists. I’ve been called a hero of democracy and, oh yeah, been wished an inoperable brain tumor. I’ve trespassed, as a journo aiming at a mainstream audience, upon the sacred consensus that America is a dumbed down, spectator nation, yet somehow special, God’s Chosen Superpower, the greatest nation on Earth. Let’s get beyond our limited allegiances, I say, and celebrate our wholeness as a species and a planet.

I’ve been called blatantly relevant.

And I have proclaimed myself, ever since coming across the term at Transcend Media Service, a peace journalist.
“Peace journalism is when editors and reporters make choices — about what to report, and how to report it — that create opportunities for society at large to consider and to value nonviolent responses to conflict.” — Jake Lynch

This idea is so deceptively simple, but unbelievably rare in the 24/7 mediastream that flushes through our lives, peddling horror and fear as though they were . . . sex. News and “entertainment” have lost much of their reflective component and become almost purely reactive. This is intensely troubling to me; the long-term social consequences can’t be good. For this reason, I embraced the concept of peace journalism kind of the way Joey slammed into his great uncle: breathlessly, with full-tilt enthusiasm. It became the lodestar of my maturity as a journalist, and so it remains.

“Nonviolent response to conflict” is, simply put, the foundation of civilization, is it not? Conflict — between and among people, between species, with our planet and universe — is inevitable. Violent response belittles the conflict, shatters the complexity, perpetuates the problem, endangers the innocent and often blows up in our faces. But violence is an industry, shrouded in mythology and consensus. We’re stuck with it, apparently. To my mind, working to undo the mythology of violence is the most responsible act a writer can commit.

Robert C. Koehler, peace journalist. 

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