Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Give Peace a Chance

"If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." -- Romans 12:18

If there's one thing that drives me crazy it's mythical origins that are taken as fact. I'm talking about those urban legends that everyone thinks are true, so they present them as history and base teaching around it. For example, most people are familiar with the idea that the songs "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" are about drugs. To them, this is obvious, and they believe it's been proven that they were. When you tell them they are wrong, they refuse to believe you because they WANT to believe in these secret origins. But they ARE wrong. Surely, if "Lucy in the Sky"were about drugs, the Beatles would have said so by now. Paul has been candid about the origins of some of his other songs ("Got to Get You Into My Life" is actually an ode to marijuana, but nobody thinks it is).  But people believe that "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" clearly points to being about LSD. Well, as Paul has said, the initials of the song are LSWD, so that doesn't even make sense.

Another similar myth that continues to be perpetuated is that the old rhyme "ring around the rosie" is about the Black Plague. And because some guy somewhere made a convincing argument for it, everyone likes to pretend they are smart and believes it. But they have been duped, as in all likelihood that isn't the case. The human mind searches for patterns even when none are there. When dealing with the origins of old rhymes, it's important to look at earlier variants, as folk rhymes often change over time. Snopes.com makes a substantial convincing argument that this origin story is entirely false. And yet it's so prevalent that it even turns up in books now as academic fact. In an otherwise superb book for children researching the true origins of John Henry, the author mentioned the "ring around the rosie" story as fact. To me, this immediately made his credibility seem questionable, though the rest of his actual argument about John Henry makes a lot of sense.

But the main target of this post is an urban legend that has particularly angered me because it is most prevalent among Christians; it involves the "peace sign". You know the one I mean:

I've known many Christians who were offended by the symbol and are quick to say that it's anti-Christian. They claim it actually represents a "broken cross" and I've heard all sorts of corollaries to this, such as that the hippie movement of the 1960s used it to proclaim a death to their parents' Christianity. And while there are certain similar ancient symbols one can point to, I don't believe that particular origin is true as it pertains to this symbol, at least regarding its present-day "peace" usage. Yet Christians proclaim their ignorance year after year. A Christian school I attended made it against the rules to display.

Bear in mind that this post hasn't been thoroughly researched, but also consider that you can find just about anything on the internet from any crazy out there with a bias, so if you think I'm wrong I need solid proof. But I have read and seen enough to make me agree with a separate origin that has nothing to do with Jesus or the cross.

The symbol as we know it does not stand for "peace" in its abstract form, but rather for a specific type of peace being proclaimed by protest movements of the 1960s: nuclear disarmament. If you look at its usage in pictures from the period, you'll often see the symbol on banners and among signs proclaiming not only "stop the war" but "disarm weapons now!" and other slogans of that ilk. My research indicates that this is what the symbol means. This origin was even a Jeopardy! question, and they've got full-time researchers. Why then does the symbol look the way it does? It is two letters.

A stylized W, something like this:

and a D, something like this:


both sitting together in a circle. Together, the letters W and D stand for Weapons Disarmament. So this peace that it proclaims is not about loving your neighbor so much as it is about not bombing Cambodia. Even so, it has nothing to do with destroying Christianity or any such nonsense. And yet, that mythical origin continues, even being used in passing in the film version of The DaVinci Code (but then, there's enough nonsense in that film as it is).
update: for some reason, the images i had for the letters have disappeared, and I'm not going to bother trying to re-draw them. Just look at the peace sign and erase the top and bottom of the circle and the line down the middle for the W, and just look at the right half for the D.

In conclusion, it seems to me that most Christians and others who object to these things do so primarily out of fear and there isn't enough evidence to convince me that there's anything inherently evil about a peace sign. Feel free to object to it on political grounds, but to object on religious grounds seems unfounded. There is enough in this present darkness to war against without creating issues to divide us.

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