A Motto for Peace

I was traveling in British Columbia with my family on July 4th. There were no fireworks, but I did see a magnificent bald eagle. Canadian news showed violent fire working in Highland Park, IL, as gunfire showered down from a rooftop shooter onto a crowd of happy parade-watchers gathered to celebrate U.S. Independence Day.

There is something terribly wrong in America when war rifles are unleashed upon innocent folks who are watching a parade, studying in elementary, high school or college, attending their church or synagogue, buying groceries or shopping in a mall, enjoying an outdoor concert or music in a club, driving their car, or just walking on a city sidewalk.

We need a national motto for peace. Wait, we have one! E pluribus unam is Latin for “out of many, one.” Our democracy’s motto refers to the formation of one nation from 13 “original” colonies. This motto appears on the Great Seal of the U.S. established in 1782. A bald eagle holds a ribbon with the wording in its beak.  

The bald eagle grasps peace — symbolized in an olive branch with 13 olives and 13 leaves in one strong claw — however 13 arrows are clutched in the other claw to symbolize war. While the eagle is turned to face the olive branch, it is ever vigilant or ready for war. How did the founders of this seal use arrows in their messaging but did not consider that indigenous people might have been a “colony” of folks too? This oversight still exists in today’s turbulence.  

While singing about the land of the brave, we Americans are not very inclusive of brave people who appear “different.” It is significant that the mass killing fields in the U.S. are on the rise. By one account, there were 63 mass shootings in May and 65 in June.  

It seems that everyone feels edgy. With great uncertainty, there is an unraveling of our “we” ribbon where people look after each other and make the common good a priority. Researchers find that when neighbors share a belief that they can collectively overcome crime, there is significantly less violence. Psychologist Albert Bandura named this phenomenon collective efficacy. He discovered that when educators believe that their collective actions will influence student behavior, there are significant gains in student achievement.

In the wild, eagles demonstrate aspects of collective efficacy. They embrace family values, usually bonding for life. Life partners cooperate in building (or reusing) a giant nest and in tending young eaglets. Some eagle parents receive assistance feeding the young from one or more unattached adults: this collective effort contributes to survival of the species.

We are the handlers to contribute to the survival of our species. Let’s increase our human tending for ALL our precious young and fulfill a peaceful motto: “out of many, one.”

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

98. Who might you look after this week? 

99. What collective actions can you initiate for the common good?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

5 comments

  1. I was privileged to see a “free” bald eagle soar over the walkway this afternoon at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge — a poignant footnote to this morning’s blog!

    Billy Frank Jr. (1931-2014) was a Nisqually native and a civil rights leader. He was a well-respected activist and spokesperson for Native American rights both locally in the Pacific Northwest and nationally. He worked to protect the traditions of native people as well as ensure that future generations might enjoy healthy natural resources.

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  2. This is a wonderful blog about a terrible problem in the United States! I am so glad you are able to visit Canada where saner minds seem to prevail. I appreciated the Bandura reference because it is so true! If we can only get over our discouragement and depression about these events and work together, so much can be accomplished. The House Democrats are only a few votes short of passing an Assault Weapons Ban! We have hard work to do but together we can make some progress!

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