Americans do talk about peace − just not the same way people do in other countries

It's about being able to openly share past trauma, feel loved, and connected, and so much more.
By: The Conversation
HOUSTON - Sept. 20, 2023 - PRLog -- By: Peter Dixon, Columbia University, Amy E Lerman, University of California, Berkeley, Fiorella Vera-Adrianzén, Santa Clara University, Naomi Levy, Santa Clara University

Americans don't talk much about peace. But it turns out they care about it a lot – they just don't talk about it the way people who have experienced war or civil conflict do.

When public opinion polls in the U.S. ask people about peace, it's either in the context of religion or world peace.

Instead of using the word peace, Americans are more likely to say that they care deeply about safety and security and issues like terrorism, crime, illegal drugs and immigration.

But they still care about the same things people in places that have faced war are focused on.

What is peace?

We are social scientists who are part of a network of peace and conflict researchers and community-engaged scholars at several universities. We and our other colleagues have spent a lot of time talking with different communities that have experienced war, including in Colombia, Afghanistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina, about what peace looks like to them

Peace is hard to define. In the dictionary, it's equated with tranquility or the absence of war. We see it as broader. Peace is the ability for people to live in harmony with themselves and with each other. In practice, however, that can mean many different things to different people.

We know that people who directly experience conflict and violence tend to have very broad, but also nuanced, definitions of peace

In Colombia, for example, many communities told us they felt at peace when they had the infrastructure necessary to supply basic needs, like clean water, or when they could actively participate in regular social gatherings. In Bosnia, residents highlighted the ability to use public spaces, including rebuilt ruins from the war, as well as the presence of more day-to-day amenities like streetlights and parking.

But until a recent project in Oakland, California, we weren't thinking about our work in America as also being about peace.

The Conversation
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