By Megan Salmon
I like to think so. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to work in international human rights and social justice. Yes, it’s a very strange career goal for a first grader, but when I saw a documentary about Martin Luther King Jr., I felt like I had a calling. I’ve always said that I am 100% dedicated to serving anyone and everyone the rights and peace that they deserve. Social justice and peace became an integral part of my identity.
And yet, I guess I’m not so sure. I’ve also been a powerlifter my whole life. I wouldn’t define powerlifting as the opposite of peace, but if you can imagine a gym filled with huge men and women thriving on the idea that they are physically strong enough to win any fight that comes their way, you may not assume it is peaceful either. Further, I am the captain of my rugby team. It’s competitive, impulsive, violent, dirty and overall just a complete mess of people knocking each other as hard as they can to the ground. I think I’m peaceful but at the same time I feel very attached to these aggressive physical outlets in my life. There was a time while I was growing up that I became unsure of my own assertion that I was 100% dedicated to peace. How could someone with such “violent” interests be a peacemaker?
I started to realize, as I’m sure you do reading this, that these are just sports and they are not reality. Sure, I’ve broken a few girls bones in my day. Maybe even a lot of bones. But that doesn’t mean I’m not peaceful since they’re just sports, right? I could still say I was 100% dedicated to peace. This is where I began to have a problem.
If I continued to assert that I was 100% dedicated to peace, I had no evidence as to why. I knew that my aggressive sports history wasn’t evidence as to why not, but I realized that I wasn’t proving myself to be an advocate for peace. A peaceful person brings peace about to others, not just says that they are dedicated to it. I began volunteering, working with Amnesty International, advocating for political causes that served social justice, and local nonprofits that made real connections with people. I learned that this is what being “peaceful” really was, if you could even call it that. It wasn’t because I said I supported peace, but because I stepped out of my house and tried to make someone else’s day better each day. To me, this is the real intention behind peacebuilding, and I think SPP is going to help me discover more effective and larger-scale ways to do just that.
I like to think I’m peaceful, and not just because I support social justice, human rights or peace. I like to think I’m peaceful because I’m finally learning how to extend that support into real change for others.