BARING WITNESS - THE NEW PEACE
By Paul Reffell
it's such a simple word, but it has many connotations in the current
political climate. "You're either with us or against us" has become
official national policy, and when the "us" involved is bent on bombing
somebody - anybody - to make them pay for September 11, talking about
peace could be an act of treason.
takes a certain amount of courage to speak out against war these days.
To speak out publicly, stripped of anonymity and clothing takes even
12th, forty-five women in West Marin County, Northern California dared
and bared all in protest against impending war. Lying down naked on a
field in the rain, they formed the word PEACE with their bodies,
spelling out their convictions for all to see.
of their protest became the shot seen around the world, once it hit the
news wires and the Internet. It has aroused passion and inspired women
and men nationwide to take action, speak their minds and express their
frustrations at not being heard by those in power.
Many of these new activists have never taken part in a protest
before. Some have never written an e-mail to anyone about a political
issue. Such is the persuasive power of the vulnerability of the naked
That power is
seduction and it may be the deciding factor in creating support for
When the image
of the PEACE photo was shown on CBS Sunday Morning as a segue between
"news" items, Charles Osgood's voice-over was a respectful statement of
the facts, but when he came on camera, he said, "Talk about a body of
work." Then he turned to introduce Bob Schieffer, who said, "I was
hoping for a close-up." Many women were offended by these typical male
responses, but what do they really convey?
the kind of stock responses that men express when they get together.
They form a mask of bravado, which is a survival tactic for men among
men. What they really show is the embarrassment most sober men feel
when confronted by public female nudity. Bob Schiefferšs body language
- grinning, his eyes down and head slightly bowed - revealed not
leering priapism but self-conscious uncertainty, even as he spoke the
words that he was 'expected' to say. That is part of the dilemma of
appearing 'manly' in America.
is a cultural, and possibly genetic, behavior, which could be very
useful in the continuing peace movement. If men are publicly confronted
by large numbers of naked women protesting the distinctly male
phenomenon of war, it could begin a shift of consciousness, a
re-examination of motives and behavior. That just might tip the scale
of public opinion against continued international aggression as a
substitute for rational foreign policy.
That is the goal
of the new peace movement; to gather large numbers of women so that
they can express how exhausted and frustrated they are by the state of
the world in menšs hands. If that means standing naked and unprotected,
unarmed in a violent world, they are ready to do it. No symbol of life
is more potent than the female body.
It is time for
collaboration, for a more balanced implementation of male and female
energies. The male striving for knowledge and invention has transformed
the world for the better and the worse. Our comforts are greater, but
so are our effects on the world that supports our very existence. The
needs of the modern world create greed for the raw materials from which
our needs are satisfied. Wars are fought under other pretexts to
satisfy those needs. It is time for the nurturing influence of women to
be felt more strongly.
As simplistic as
it sounds, the movement can make our rulers stop and listen, even if
only for a second. That one second could be the difference between
their pushing the button and listening to their hearts. They are still
human. They are still men. They have other ways of perception than
women, but they are not monsters. They have got carried away with
having their own way for so long. They are like spoilt, squabbling boys
with dangerous toys.
It is woman's
role to give life, to nurture and protect their men and their children.
When men are at war, either between themselves or with Nature, they are
unhealthy, unhappy and in danger. That is the time for women to step
in. That is when it is time to shock men, stop them in their tracks,
turn them into embarrassed schoolboys, remind them of how they all came
into this world and make them listen to words of consolation, healing
That is the time
for Baring Witness.