What Ever Happened to ‘Peace and Love’?

Photo by Tanja Mamas

I attended undergraduate school in the late sixties and early seventies when the hippie movement was at its peak. As a conscientious student, I didn’t have time for anything other than my studies. However, today I long for those peace and love ideals.

Realistically speaking, what is peace and love anyway? Isn’t it far more than non-violence and free love? Doesn’t it include more than being respectful, compassionate, polite, and dignified toward all people, not just the ones you agree with?

Could it somehow be that the hippie movement morphed into a militant, intolerant, political and social rebellion? Perhaps this transition began with the college campus riots in the early seventies. Have the student participants in those riots now become the leaders of our intolerant time? Vicious criticism of one another has become the norm. It seems that ‘hatred and defiance’ have replaced ‘peace and love’. “Where have all the flowers gone?”

Isn’t it odd that somehow the same ideals underlie not only ‘peace and love’, but also ‘hatred and defiance’? Both aspire to an ideal world. People from both groups feel everything would be fine if people just thought the way they did. Both insist upon defining the status quo in the name of a new ‘enlightened society’. Have the aspirational seeds of the flower child movement mutated into the thorny weeds of hostility? Is it possible that if we could tend those seeds more wisely, it would bring about a more peaceful and loving era?

I long for peace and love. I aspire to a time when people can honorably and respectfully disagree, a time when we can constructively work through our differences as a team to find a better way. To accomplish this, we must go far beyond simple tolerance. To tolerate means to put up with or endure. Too often, it includes inwardly rolling your eyes and shaking your head, while from your perspective, you allow others to be wrong, foolish, or worse.

I long for a time when not only is intolerance replaced by tolerance, but when tolerance is replaced by mutual respect and understanding — ‘peace and love,’ a reaching out, “hands across the water”. Isn’t it tragic that we write one politician or group of people off as totally horrible and bad, while considering our own group benevolent and perfect? Isn’t that the epitome of polarization and disharmony? How can we find the good and well-intended heart within one another?

The history of our world has been one of tolerance and intolerance. It seems nations and groups tolerate one another until they can’t stand it anymore, subsequently lashing out in confrontation and war.

I dream of the time when we can embrace each other’s differences. Different people are different because of their very nature. It is the essence of who they are. This is the way the world is, the way it was ‘meant to be’. Only after we embrace that truth will there be peace and love on this planet. A time when our ideals don’t insist upon a homogenous mentality, with everybody thinking the same way we do. May we strive to gain from our differences, and to see the value in what opposing views have to offer.

We all love our children. We all aspire to happy and fulfilling lives. To attain those goals, we must find peace and love within our own hearts, within our own attitude toward one another.