What is peace? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, peace is defined in a variety of different ways. First, peace is considered to be “a freedom or a period of freedom from public disturbance or war.” Secondly, peace is “a quiet and calm state of mind.” And finally, peace “an agreement and harmony among people.” While this state of being can easily be defined, it is much harder to obtain.
The month of August is a time to reflect back on tough times and reevaluate what it means to have peace among us. Originally founded on August 16, 1926, at the Democratic Peace Conference in Germany, August became International Peace Month as a time to reflect specifically on the First World War. On August 16, 1926, TIME Magazine wrote: “At Rheims, martyred memorial city of World War destruction, 4,000 pacifists from 30 countries assembled last week for the Fifth International Democratic Peace Conference. Nine hundred of the delegates were young Germans, representing almost every German city. At the first session, the present month of August 1926, was proclaimed “international peace month,” the delegates voting to encamp in tents upon the onetime World War battlefields of France through Aug. 29,
“in order to pursue an intensive study of international peace work.”
Sadly, this month was created due to a variety of horrific miscalculations which lead to the destruction that was our first World War. WWI killed millions and withered Europe on a scale once considered unthinkable. The war not only set the tone for the next century to be one of conflict and violence, but also altered how humans began to think about their future. Following in the footsteps of this war, generations grew up in fear, with much lowered expectations for the future.
Today, as the memory of this war has greatly receded, it is still crucial that we educate our future generations of the horror that this war brought on, and learn from past mistakes. What are some simple methods to prepare one’s family for recognizing August as the International Peace Month? By educating ourselves through reading. Over the years, countless books have been written about the “Great War.” By checking out these books from a local library, then either reading a book its in entirety to discuss later, or reading sections of a book together, one can easily educate their family this summer about this catastrophic war. Below is a short list of excellent educational books regarding WWI, compiled from the “National Day Calendar” website:
- All Quiet On the Western Front by E.M. Remarque is a novel about the effects of the war on the men fighting it.
- Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb is a novel about corruption and injustice in the military. This piece of literature later became the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s classic film Paths of Glory.
- The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell is a study of how the war changed Western culture.
- The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman is a poignant story of how the war started.
- Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo is a graphic look at the horrors of war.
Countless organizations, most notably the Peace Corps, have been established in years past to provide peace among those who need it most—war ravaged countries where food is scarce, shelter is tough to find, and love is lacking. While these organizations are excellent in providing relief and help to others in other tough situations, it is still vital that all take the first step to understanding what peace is—educating ourselves. This August, consider doing so through reading up on the past wars and discussing the issues of peace around the world. Hopefully, through taking this first step—education—today, we can provide younger groups lessons about our previous mistakes, so that we may not repeat the mistakes that led to the Great War. As George Santayan once said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”