April 16, 2023 Essay: How To Go “All In” For Peace: No More Velleities!

Apr 7, 2023

Long ago, someone I love deeply wrote these words:

“We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues because the waging of war, by its nature, is total—but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial. So a whole will and a whole heart and a whole national life bent toward war prevail over the velleities of peace.”

Velleity is the weakest form of volition, a desire that one has no energy or intention to fulfill.

My uncle, Father Daniel Berrigan, wrote those words in a book called No Bars to Manhood, published in 1970. The war being waged was different. Our country was different, smaller, whiter, and more homogeneous back then. But the words still hit home, don’t they?

We want peace, but we also want cheap gas. We want peace, but we also want to be warm in the winter. We want peace, but we also want order, predictability, and calm.

We want peace, but we do not want to suffer even the slightest discomfort or disruption along the way. And so, we get comfortable with war, as long as it is far away and not fought by our children. Who is this WE? It is me too. I am talking about myself, my own restless, unsatisfied American-ness.

What does it mean to make peace? Be a peacemaker? Is it as simple as being a shoemaker or a bread maker, you make peace instead of shoes or bread? In a word, yes. It is work; it is labor; it takes time and effort. Peacemaking is a creative undertaking; it is making something new, something that doesn’t currently exist.

Grace Lee Boggs, the great peacemaker from Detroit, talked a lot about visionary organizing. She pushed a generation to “go beyond protest organizing” toward telling stories of the future “that helps us imagine and create alternatives to the existing system,” imagining and creating a whole new culture! Boggs reminds us that “we have the power within us to create the world anew.”

I love that. I am looking out for it, where is it? I am trying to build it up within myself! But it is not mine to find or cultivate or harness! It is OUR power. It is another WE. Grace Lee Boggs says that we have the power. That is a transcendent notion: collective power in the service of a collective vision for a future that is different than today.

How? In short, we go all in! No more velleities! No more half-tries, no more vague attempts, no more vacillation. All in. All together. The work is clear: Reconnect estranged family members, reweave tattered human connections, restore frayed trust, reforge bonds between people, repair the damage done by decades (no centuries) of war. And do it all on a human scale. And bit by bit, connection by connection, person by person, we are creating new cultures—as Dorothy Day taught us—where it is easier for people to be good.

That, it seems to be, is peacemaking. I know that it takes work. I know that it takes sacrifice, that it comes at a cost, comes with discomfort. But it also comes with so much joy. I can’t do it alone, and neither can you.

— Frida Berrigan

Join us Monday, April 24th at 7 PM in Wallace Hall as Frida Berrigan presents the lecture How To Go “All In” For Peace: No More Velleities! Peacemaking is sidelined, disparaged, and mocked as naive. Or worse, it is worshiped as a saintly ideal. Even so, in a war-steeped nation, we must be “All In” as peacemakers. How?