A banner across Brunswick’s Maine Street announces that the ninth annual Peace Fair is coming Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. I start wondering why anyone would want to go to a peace fair, unless they were quite interested in peace, or very bored.
What sort of peace? How to stop kids from fighting, or the government from fighting, or us from fighting? Is someone trying to get Democrats and Republicans to work together, get nations to work together, get us working together?
What is a “peace fair” anyway? Is it fun? Fairs should be fun, but most things that are fun are exciting, and peace doesn’t sound very exciting. The fliers announce a number of good musical groups, and some entertainers, and I see there are ox cart rides for children, so maybe it will be fun.
Is it about peace? I can imagine a peaceful fair, but it seems a rather unlikely way to get peace. Will the president and secretary of state be coming? Will it teach people how to cultivate peace the way a county fair teaches about growing vegetables and raising sheep? Will there be contests for best peaceful communication? I know there are some new mediation techniques and ways to use nonviolent resistance. I know there are new ideas about dealing with the violence that is out there and the violence that is in our hearts. I see that Robert Shetterly and Zoe Weil will be there and wonder if there will be demonstrations or workshops. Gary Lawless is doing a poetry writing workshop.
The flier shows children asking us to feed them, teach them, and keep them healthy. Seems like a tall order. How are we going to protect the earth, keep them from violence, and work for a compassionate world when giant corporations displace farmers producing food for local consumption and spend millions to lobby against food labeling, public health insurance and for nuclear weapons? I suppose Wyman Gordon could make a profit building windmills but it can make more of a profit building a new missile ship because of the way our tax dollars are spent. How are we going to get jobs for our teenagers when the global economy is hurting rather than helping our local economy? I hope the fair will help us address how to get corporations to work for more than profits and how to get us to choose to spend taxes subsidizing windmills rather than weapons.
Our world is shrinking, and I don’t think we can rely on governments to defend us and give us a decent economy. We need to build a global culture of peace and that is what peace fairs can help us build, that and a chance to celebrate what unifies us in one human community. I’m not sure how much we can learn from a peace fair, but if agricultural fairs help us with crops and animal husbandry, peace fairs should be able to help us cultivate peace.
Will you come?
Joseph de Rivera of Brunswick is the founder and former director of the Peace Studies Program at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.